Veteran Giants left-hander Barry Zito is starting in place of Madison Bumgarner against the Dodgers tonight in San Francisco.
The Giants’ decision to shut down Bumgarner after 31 (mostly good) starts should be a good one for the Dodgers. Zito (4-11) is closing the books on the worst of his 14 major-league seasons and almost certainly his last as a Giant. It’s an important start. It also closes the book on the landmark case against overpaying for a free-agent pitcher with a declining strikeout rate in the middle of his career. To wit: Zito never had an ERA-plus below 100 in seven seasons with the A’s. He signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with San Francisco at age 28 and never posted an ERA-plus above 100 as a Giant.
For the Dodgers, the implications are more subtle.
The starting infield of Michael Young, Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr. is auditioning for jobs in the playoffs. Of the four, Hairston (.370/.541/.630) and Schumaker (.368/.368/.526) have enjoyed considerable success against Zito, while Punto (.286/.286/.286) and Young (.236/.292/.315) have not.
Ricky Nolasco will make what is likely his final regular-season start for the Dodgers. Nolasco has struggled in his last two starts, including a Sept. 14 game against the Giants in which he allowed five earned runs in 1 ⅓ innings — the shortest start of his career. He might still be the Dodgers’ number-three starter in the playoffs depending on the matchup; no announcement has been made beyond Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke pitching games 1 and 2. A good start here might be his last chance to get untracked before October.