DENVER — Now that Barry Zito has his first victory as a Giant, his next goal is to win his first in a home uniform.

It hasn't escaped Zito that he pitched like an ace on the road for the A's last year (10-3, 2.97 ERA) but was mediocre at home (6-7, 4.71). Over his past three seasons with the A's, Zito was 20-20 with a 4.31 ERA at home.

"That's something I definitely want to attack, be my normal self at home," said Zito, who was winless in his first two outings at AT&T Park.

Zito isn't the only Giants player with that goal, as they begin a five-game homestand today. Part of the reason the club is coming off consecutive losing seasons is an 80-82 home record over that span.

It's a problem that two returning Giants, Russ Ortiz and Rich Aurilia, haven't experienced. In 2000-03, the first four seasons at the Giants present park, the team had a .651 winning percentage at home — tied with Oakland for the best in the majors over that span.

"We felt a sense of ownership with our stadium, and that played into it," said Ortiz, who was traded after the 2002 season. "(Former manager) Dusty Baker always said if you have a .500 record on the road and win at home, you'll have a very good season. After he said that, I noticed that's true of most teams in the playoffs.

"If you have a good record at home, you play better on the road because there's less pressure to turn around a bad streak.


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Or, if you stumble on the road, there's a comfort level to coming home."

The Giants lost five of six on their season-opening homestand, but Aurilia isn't making any snap judgments.

"We figured out ways to win in that park," said Aurilia, who left after the 2003 season. "We couldn't count on home runs. We had to do the little things to win. It made us a much better team. You have to win the low-scoring games and use the park to your advantage. I feel we're a team capable of doing that."

NIEKRO TAKES GROUNDERS: Lance Niekro started taking groundballs at third base, but it's only an experiment. Bench coach Ron Wotus said the coaching staff wanted to determine if Niekro would be a viable option at third in an emergency.

Niekro began his pro career as a third baseman but moved to first after shoulder surgery. He can throw over the top but has trouble maintaining his arm slot.

"I can still make that throw (from third)," Niekro said. "I'd have gotten some outs."

MATCHUPS: Starters for the Cardinals series; today, RH Matt Morris (2-0, 2.38 ERA) vs. LH Randy Keisler (0-0, 3.00), 7:15 p.m.; Thursday, LH Noah Lowry (0-2, 2.77) vs. RH Kip Wells (1-2, 2.25), 12:35 p.m.