Game four was a chore to sit through and it didn’t even look like the Giants were supposed to be on the same field as the Cardinals. Giants fans were upset, but some creative fans decided to start replacing their avatars with goofy Barry Zito photos. What was a way to stop being upset became a Twitter brigade. Late Thursday night, #RallyZito was trending worldwide and those of us who decided to join in were amazed.
Barry Zito has such an interesting relationship with Giants fans. Never once has he embarrassed the team in public. He’s never made any incendiary remarks toward fans, even though you wouldn’t blame him if he did. He’s simply not pitched well. Oh yeah, and he signed a $126 million dollar contract. Fans have been relentless with him from the get-go because of that contract, myself included. His Giants career didn’t start poorly. In 2007, after his seventh start as a Giants pitcher, he was 3-3 with a 3.65 ERA. But his season spiraled out of control soon thereafter and if not for a strong close, he would’ve had an ERA over five. In 2008, he got off on the wrong foot and never recovered. His 5.15 ERA at the end of the season was the lowest it was for the entire season. In 2009, he showed signs of what he eventually did in 2012, and the first half of 2010 was quite good. But a bad second half in 2010, being left off all postseason rosters, and a 2011 that didn’t even get going for him didn’t help his cause. Giants fans have been dying to cheer for him. But he hasn’t given us much to cheer about … until now.
His NLDS start, which was supposed to be his retribution, turned out instead to be all about Tim Lincecum. What that start did was lower expectations for Friday night. I think part of the reason that #RallyZito happened is because expectations were low. The Giants had nothing to lose and their fans figured the same. It wasn’t expected that Zito would throw the game of his life. We hoped, but it wasn’t faith.
By the time Friday arrived, #RallyZito had taken on a life of its own. Fans who were off Twitter when it was happening Thursday night saw nothing but Barry Zito avatars in their timeline, figured it out quickly and joined the fun. Some baseball people noticed the meme and started to use the hash tag. The San Francisco Giants official Twitter account started to catch on.
Early in the game, Fox’s national broadcast caught on. Ken Rosenthal mentioned the #RallyZito campaign. It didn’t hurt that Barry Zito was throwing the game of his life that fans hoped for but didn’t truly believe in. He was only in trouble in the second inning, when Yadier Molina singled and David Freese doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. But Zito pitched his way out of it, striking out Pete Kozma and then getting pitcher Lance Lynn to hit into an inning ending double play.
Soon enough, everyone was on the #RallyZito bandwagon from beat writers to ESPN’s official Twitter feed to analysts and even Giants Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda. And Zito did nothing to steer them away. The Giants broke through in the top of the fourth thanks to some seeing-eye hits, an error by Lynn on a double play attempt, a clutch hit by Brandon Crawford and a two-out drag bunt for a hit by Barry Zito. Yes, Barry Zito, he of the slow horse gallop according to Brian Wilson. David Freese was playing back with two outs and Zito drag bunted like his name was Brett Butler.The Giants would tack on a fifth run on a Pablo Sandoval solo shot. The Cardinals would only get one runner to second after the second. Zito would go on to pitch seven and two-thirds, giving up six hits and striking out six. More importantly, he only walked one and it was intentional. Unlike Lincecum the previous night, he didn’t allow the Cardinals on base unless they deserved it. Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo (The Serge~!) would come in and finish the game.
When the Giants left to St. Louis after Monday night’s win in San Francisco, their entire goal was to get back to Ryan Vogelsong. It would mean that they wouldn’t get swept in St. Louis and would have a chance to win the series on their home field. Barry Zito and #RallyZito gave them the opportunity to do so. They have to win the next two games to make it back to the World Series. The Cardinals just have to win one.
So what becomes of #RallyZito? Does it blend into something about Ryan Vogelsong? Or does it stay as it is? Does #RallyZito become the rallying cry for the rest of the Giants season? I say yes. Don’t mess with success. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Don’t piss off the baseball gods. While the Giants will need to keep believing in their ability to play with their backs against the wall, fans may need #RallyZito to keep them sane. What was a fun and goofy meme on Thursday night is now a status symbol for the team’s never-say-die attitude.
And if you don’t think that what the Giants are doing is possible, Kevin Garnett has a message for you.