SAN FRANCISCO -- When Barry Zito pitches, the Giants win big games, medium-sized games, playoff games, home-opening games and any kind of game that has nine innings and No. 75 on the mound.

That's the magic formula, and that's now the incredible flipped reality of Zito's hellish-then-charmed Giants career.

What was down is up, what was cold is hot, and what's Zito is 100 percent unbeatable.

The Giants defeated St. Louis 1-0 in the 2013 AT&T Park opener Friday, the 15th consecutive time the Giants have won a Zito start, dating to August.

Which is amazing for any pitcher, at any time, across all categories, but especially for Zito, whose fastball tops out at 84 mph and yet he keeps bedazzling hitters through monster playoff games and now into 2013.

How has this happened? The best explanation, fittingly, has Zen simplicity: Zito is doing this precisely because he's not focused on it. At all.

"Maybe statwise you guys can kind of make (the streak) the story," Zito said after throwing seven shutout innings in a strong echo of his epic shutdown of the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLCS last year.

"But for me, every day's a new day, and I have to approach it not as a continuation of anything but as a new challenge."

Sure, Zito is aware of the streak. As manager Bruce Bochy said with a smile, everybody in the clubhouse is aware of the streak.

How can you ignore 15-0?

But even now, at the top of his game, Zito has the same cool discipline that helped him to survive his first horrible years with the Giants after signing his $126 million contract.


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"I wish I could say I was locked in for 15 games, but baseball is a very unpredictable game," Zito said. "Anything could happen."

And I think that's what is lifting him now: He wasn't broken by the horridness because he always separated himself from the ugliness and stayed in the moment; he's applying the same process now that he has his groove back.

This is not an extension of his run to end 2012, he insists. This is a new thing, because every Zito game is a new thing.

"It's just kind of different for me," Zito said. "For me to look at streaks and try to keep things going, quote, unquote, it's not conducive to being in the present with every pitch."

Zito even singled in this game -- extending his hitting streak to three games, dating to his singles against St. Louis in Game 5 and against Detroit's Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the World Series.

Down is up, Zito is invincible.

"I think we feel like that with every guy that we put out there," said catcher Buster Posey, pointing out that Giants starters have yet to surrender an earned run in four games this season.

"But definitely last year, you did start to feel that towards the end -- that when (Zito) was out there, good things were going to happen."

On Friday, Zito made a good Cardinals lineup look just as bad as he made St. Louis look in October.

Somehow, his 79 mph cutters up in the zone induce pop-ups from Yadier Molina, and his low sliders produce weak grounders from Carlos Beltran.

Over the 15 games, Zito's own record is 10-0 with a 3.10 ERA. Sometimes, the Giants hitters and bullpen have bailed him out, most times he has been in total control.

"I feel like he's pitching with a lot of conviction," Posey said.

Zito didn't even think he had his best stuff Friday, which was another reason he wasn't high-fiving everybody in the clubhouse afterward.

But he said he enjoyed the parts of the pregame flag-raising ceremony that he could, and that he appreciated the chance to pitch the home opener after a championship season.

And the Giants won a Zito game. That's what they always do now that Zito's career his gone through the looking glass. At 79 mph.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.