PEORIA, Ariz. — Barry Zito knew it was time to test the curveball.
He was right.
Zito struck out five in a row in the first and second innings, but Brandon Mauer shut down the Giants and led the Seattle Mariners to a 6-3 victory over San Francisco on Tuesday.
“I definitely wanted to get the curveball in the game,” he said. “I just haven’t thrown a whole lot through my sequences in the spring.”
Zito focused on throwing his curveball, relying almost exclusively on the pitch.
“I really wanted to get a feel for it this game,” Zito said.
Zito pitched five innings for the first time, scattering five hits and giving up two runs. He struck out seven overall and walked one.
During a stretch that spanned the first and second innings, he fanned, the heart of Seattle’s lineup: Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Kyle Seager Jason Bay and Kelly Shoppach.
“My timing was definitely better than it’s been the last couple outings,” Zito said.
Zito spent last spring working on mechanical issues in an effort to recover from injuries to his right foot in 2011. He regained his form, going 15-8 and helping the Giants win the World Series title in 2012. This spring, he’s been free to center his focus on perfecting his timing.
“Certainly my confidence is higher this year,” Zito said, “but it’s also a factor of focusing more on making pitches and not so much on mechanics.”
Maurer, a 22-year-old with no experience pitching above Double-A, was equally effective. The right-hander held the Giants to one run on three hits in five innings. He also struck out four and walked none.
Maurer said he felt butterflies before taking the mound, but striking out leadoff hitter Andres Torres calmed him down.
“I got a little nervous at first like anyone would,” said Maurer, who was 9-2 with a 3.20 ERA with the Jackson Generals last season. “But I got that first inning under my belt and I was like, ‘Alright, let’s roll.’”
Maurer is in contention with Jon Garland, Blake Beavan and Erasmo Ramirez for last two spots in starting rotation. Garland and Ramirez are scheduled to pitch against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.
Maurer could hardly have pitched better this spring. In four previous outings, including one start, that totaled 10 innings, he allowed one run on 10 hits and five walks, while fanning 11.
A month ago, fighting for a spot in the starting rotation wasn’t on Maurer’s mind.
“Probably not, no,” he said. “I just try to come in and have fun regardless.”
NOTES: Morales homered in his third straight game and second baseman Nick Franklin went 2 for 2 with a double, walk, two RBIs and scored two runs. Outfielder Michael Saunders was 2 for 5 with a triple and an RBI. . Giants first baseman Brandon Belt was 2 for 3 with a double, RBI and scored a run. . Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen earned the win, despite allowing two runs on two hits and a walk in one inning. . Seattle pitcher Joe Saunders threw six innings in a minor league intrasquad game Tuesday. He allowed two runs on eight hits and two walks and struck out eight. . On Wednesday, the Mariners are off and San Francisco will play two split-squad games. Ryan Vogelsong will start for the Giants against Milwaukee and Chad Gaudin will start at San Diego. . Seattle has won six straight games.