Zito’s most memorable start?

Last night on KTVU, a local Oakland channel, sports director Mark Ibanez and anchor Frank Somerville called last night the start of Zito’s career. Zito said pretty much the same thing after the game. Now, I get that as A’s fans it’s hard to feel good about Giants’ successes, but I gotta admit that I was pretty hyped by Zito’s performance last night. When he got his bunt single in the 4th, I even put on my 10-year old Zito t-shirt in support of his effort. And it didn’t hurt that Scutaro and Garcia Casilla contributed to the Giants former A’s shutout victory.

But as much as I enjoyed his start last night, including the particularly exciting rbi bunt, I doubt it will be my most memorable of Zito’s starts. As an admitted Zito fan, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of several of his particularly memorable starts. Here are a handful that stick out:

Last night, in an elimination game, not only did he pitch spectacularly, but he contributed on offense with a Ramon-Hernandesque rbi bunt.

In contrast, in 2006 I paid top dollar to watch him at his absolute worst in game 1 of the ALCS against Detroit, what ended up being his last ever start for the A’s. I’d give almost anything to forget this one.

At the same time, in game 1 of the 2006 ALDS against Minnesota he was great, with the help of a couple of at least as memorable homeruns by Frank Thomas.

Oh, and then there’s 2003. In game 2 of the ALDS against Boston he was unhittable. I really can’t recall a better example of his curveball at its best. And then there was game 5. He was similarly dominant for 5 innings, before 6th inning dingers to Varitek and Ramirez. Again, unforgettable but for the wrong reasons.

There’s also the Gatorade-immortalizing, Jeter-flipping, Giambi-no-sliding, start against the Yankees in game 3 of the 2001 ALDS. 8 innings of 2-hit ball, one of which snuck over the wall. No help from the offense. Sadly, for many this is likely to be Zito’s most memorable start, whether or not they actually remember that he started this game. The same is sickeningly true of what is probably Dave Stewart’s most famous start, which most people only remember for the ending.

And there are more: His win against the Yankees in game 4 of the 2000 ALDS, also an elimination game; His win in the “Cy Young vs. Cy Old” game against Clemens in New York in 2003; His back-to-back almost no-no against Texas in 2005.

Zito has made many memorable starts, some that we cherish and others that we wish we could forget. Will last night ultimately be the most memorable of his career?

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