SAN DIEGO -- Barry Zito's latest road start was just like the rest of them, and it might have been his last for the Giants.
The left-hander was charged with four earned runs in four innings of Monday's 4-1 loss to the San Diego Padres at Petco Park, and with Matt Cain and Chad Gaudin on the comeback trail, Zito's time in the rotation again appears to be limited. He fell to 0-9 on the road this season and has a 9.56 ERA. The difference between Zito's road ERA and home mark (3.71) is the largest among major league pitchers who have thrown at least 100 innings this season.
"It's been a few things (going wrong on the road), but it's hard to narrow down on one thing," Zito said. "Normally, splits don't lean that hard to one direction."
It was easy to pinpoint the problem Monday. Zito walked three in the second inning, including opposing pitcher Ian Kennedy. The Padres went up 3-0 when Chris Denorfia followed the two-out walk of Kennedy with a soft two-run single to right field. Nick Hundley added a solo homer in the fourth, and Zito was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth.
If Zito fails to make a start on the final trip of the year, a swing through Los Angeles and New York, his final road win as a Giant will have been Game 5 of the 2012 National League Championship Series. Zito was brilliant that night, stymying the St. Louis Cardinals and helping the Giants storm to the World Series. It was the highest of highs for the veteran, and he said this season has been a new low point.
"It's certainly been my toughest year, I think," Zito said. "2008 was tough, but I got a lot better after the All-Star break. This has certainly been the most challenging time. The numbers aren't good, I recognize that."
The coaching staff does too, but manager Bruce Bochy said he's still rooting for Zito to string together a strong stretch.
"We're pulling for him, believe me," Bochy said. "I can't tell you how much we're pulling for him. He's such a great teammate. You hate to see anybody go through this. I know the results haven't been good, but he's all-in on how he prepares and the effort he gives. It's just been a rough go for him, particularly on the road."
As Zito's contract comes to an end, the Giants announced Monday that several players will begin their big league careers on Tuesday. Right-hander Heath Hembree, catcher Johnny Monell and shortstop Ehire Adrianza were among eight call-ups. All three are being promoted to the big leagues for the first time.
The Giants also announced that right-handers George Kontos and Jake Dunning, outfielders Francisco Peguero and Juan Perez and infielder Nick Noonan will be called up.
Hembree, 24, is a hard-throwing right-hander who had 31 saves for Triple-A Fresno and a 2.49 ERA over the season's final two months. Bochy said he would use Hembree in one-inning stints.
"We'll find good spots to put him in," Bochy said.
Adrianza, 24, is known for his slick glove and hit .310 after a promotion to Triple-A. Monell will make his big league debut at 27 years old and is coming off a 20-homer season in Fresno. Bochy wanted a third catcher on the roster and chose Monell over veteran Guillermo Quiroz, who spent time with the Giants earlier this season. Bochy said the organization wanted to reward Monell for his strong season at the plate.
Outfielder Gary Brown, a former first-round pick, was not included after a disappointing season with the Grizzlies. Left-hander Eric Surkamp was also left off the list, but for a different reason. Surkamp spent the majority of the season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
"It was a long year," Bochy said "The consensus was he could use some rest."
The call-ups should provide some additional rest for veterans, and Bochy will closely watch the innings of Marco Scutaro, Buster Posey and others. But on Monday, the lineup didn't need rest -- it needed a little luck.
The Giants had eight hits but managed just one run on a fifth-inning double by Brandon Belt. Brandon Crawford's drive to center in the fourth was hit right at Will Venable, stranding two. The Giants stranded two more in the fifth when Posey hit a two-out screamer that was snared by leaping third baseman Logan Forsythe.
Giants (Madison Bumgarner (11-9) at San Diego (Robbie Erlin (2-2), 7:10 p.m. CSNBA