DENVER -- The sprinklers at Coors Field turned on in the fourth inning Monday and then quickly shut back off. There would be no washing away the latest ugly road start by Barry Zito.
The left-hander entered the night with a 9.45 ERA away from home and saw that figure rise after giving up five runs in four innings against the Colorado Rockies. The Giants weren't any better at the plate while falling 6-1 in the opener of a nine-game trip.
Every time Zito takes the mound down the stretch, the possibility exists that he is making his final start in orange and black. Monday's start did nothing to change that reality. The Giants will not pick up Zito's option for the 2014 season, but manager Bruce Bochy reiterated Monday that the club still hopes to bring back a trio of key free agents.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence and Javier Lopez were, like most MLB players, put on waivers in recent days and quickly claimed. The Giants weren't expected to negotiate with the claiming teams, and Bochy said the plan all along has been to have the three finish the season in San Francisco. He would like the pending free agents to start next season in Giants uniforms, too.
"These are decisions that are made at the end of the season, but we think a lot of all three with what they've done here," Bochy said. "They're very professional about going about their business. This will be ironed out once the season is over, but from my perspective, just like (general manager Brian Sabean) and the organization, we think a lot of those three. I hope it works out."
Before Monday's loss, Bochy talked specifically about Pence. The outfielder has started 140 consecutive games and would like to be in the lineup for all 162 this season. Bochy said that he intends to let Pence aim for the feat, even as he mixes in young outfielders down the stretch.
"He's the one guy (in the outfield) who earned the right to be out there every day," Bochy said. "I'll check on him. But he's gotten through the tough part of the schedule. I think he's earned the right to be out there every day. He wants to be there."
Pence's bid nearly ended in the first inning Monday. He drifted back on a Michael Cuddyer fly ball and lost track of the wall, slamming into it as Cuddyer raced for a triple. Pence went down and immediately grabbed his chest as center fielder Gregor Blanco waved for trainers. Pence was checked out but remained in the game.
"I just knocked the wind out of myself," Pence said. "I couldn't breathe and couldn't move for a moment, but I'm all good. I wanted to be able to pick up the ball, and it's not a good feeling when the ball is on the ground and you can't pick it up."
Instead, Pence picked up his manager. Bochy made the long run from the third base dugout to the 375 feet sign in right field. Pence immediately told him that he was fine, but the conference nonetheless lasted a few minutes.
"Bochy said he needed a minute before he could run back," Pence said, smiling.
Pence, nicknamed "Full Throttle" by the coaching staff, played the rest of the game and insisted that he would be back in the lineup Tuesday. Despite the Giants' 58-73 record, Pence said he is still enjoying his time with the team.
"Absolutely," he said. "We're obviously not where we want to be, but we're working to get better and make progress."
There wasn't much of it Monday.
Zito has lasted just 72/3 total innings in two starts since returning to the rotation, giving up 16 hits and 11 earned runs. The Rockies jumped ahead with two homers in the first three innings and then scored two more runs in the fourth, one on an RBI single by opposing pitcher Juan Nicasio. The loss was the seventh straight for Zito, who didn't lose a game after Aug. 2 last season. He said he has gone back to look at the film from last postseason and feels that he is still the same pitcher.
"I watched a couple of games where the results were better and I made (fewer) pitches than I did tonight," he said. "My stuff is pretty much the same. It's just about being in command of myself."
Giants (Yusmeiro Petit (0-0) at Colorado (Chad Bettis 0-2), 5:40 p.m. CSNBA