The A's sit in second place by themselves thanks to a masterful performance by Barry Zito tonight. Of course, every other pitching performance looks average compared to how King Richard has been pitching.
But one of the keys to Zito's success, and I've mentioned this before, is the fact that he is using a slider and sinker now. It also means that he's suddenly more likely to get ground balls, which was absolutely essential tonight. Z got two key ground ball double plays. As a matter of fact, he had 11 ground outs compared to 4 fly outs. This from a pitcher whose stats from the past suggested he was an extreme fly ball pitcher.
Throughout his first five seasons, Zito's ground ball/fly ball ratio was always right around 0.85 (and it was never over 0.89). That means that he recorded most of his outs on balls put in play via the air. In 2005, Zito's ground ball/fly ball ratio has risen to 1.04. That means that he's getting more ground ball outs than fly ball outs. That doesn't mean we should go calling him Hudson, Bradford or Lowe just yet, but it does mean that he may be fundamentally changing how difficult it is to hit him and elevate the ball.
Zito has now dropped his ERA to 3.55 and the opposition is now hitting .152 against him in July. For those who claimed that Barry was never going to recapture his glory days, well, he's proven that 2002 was no fluke.
Mark Ellis also gets a lot of credit for tonight's victory. Not only did he hit a two-run bomb, but he also had a key double play in the ninth inning on a tough throw by Huston Street.
And who is everyone kidding? Kotsay was waiting for me to get back before he made his triumphant return.