LHP Barry Zito allowed 9 runs in 4.1 IP Sunday, his worst outing as a Giant, and a result that prevented SF from going a lofty 12 games over .500 before the All-Star break.  The San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami acknowledges sucking up a storm is hardly a new act for Zito since coming over the Bay Bridge, but circumstances are a tad different in 2009 (“but now the Giants are pretty good, with a great shot at a playoff spot¦ and Zito giving away games by the third inning is a fairly large problem, if they want to take a journey into the postseason”) (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory)

These early spit-the-bit games are Zito™s signature as a Giant. You™ve seen ˜em, I™ve seen ˜em, and Zito™s paid and volunteer PR people try to tell us that they don™t diminish Zito™s overall grandeur, even though they see them, too.

Zito™s awfulness was a bad thing for the Giants of ˜07 and ˜08, but it wasn™t anything that was hurting them in a playoff race. The Giants were bad, Zito was part of the badness.

Any outing of 5 innings or more, 4 runs or less, and the Giants offense might be able to win that game. That was not the case for a couple seasons. It is now. But being down 6-0 after a few innings? No way. That™s a kill shot.

If the Giants really are a changed team (from the old days of PR and spin and absolute fealty to the big names), they™ll consider moving Zito out of the rotation when Randy Johnson is ready to come back, presuming Ryan Sadowski and Jonathan Sanchez maintain a level performance. We™ll see.

I realize the $18M a year is an enormous thing, but at the cost of winning as many games as they can in a Wild-Card race? A test for Brian Sabean, Bruce Bochy and Bill Neukom. Possibly a defining test.