The 34-year-old pitcher allowed six hits over 7-2/3 innings, striking out six, to help send the series back to San Francisco for Game 6.
ST. LOUIS — The San Francisco Giants secured another two days to dream and a plane ticket home, where they will hope to conjure more of the magic that brought them here in the first place.
Facing elimination in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, the Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-0, on Friday night on the strength of a gutsy pitching performance by Barry Zito in front of a capacity crowd at Busch Stadium.
Once already this October, the Giants achieved the near-impossible, winning three straight games away from home to overcome a 2-0 deficit against the Cincinnati Reds in the division series. Now, trailing in this series by three games to two, they head back to AT&T Park for Game 6 on Sunday.
“Our backs are against the wall,” Giants outfielder Hunter Pence said before the game. “We do have confidence from what we accomplished in Cincinnati. That definitely gives you hope, which is a very powerful thing.”
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Zito, 34, produced the most significant performance of a stirring bounce-back season, scattering six hits with six strikeouts over 7-2/3 innings.
Zito, who won only three games during an injury-plagued 2011, recorded 15 regular-season victories for the Giants this year. He did his part in this game, and now the Giants will send Ryan Vogelsong to the mound for Game 6. Should they force a Game 7, the ball would go to Matt Cain.
“This is definitely it for me,” said Zito, the 2002 AL Cy Young award winner. “Coming here, especially doing it in a Giants uniform. A lot of people were saying stuff about A’s days. And for me, the most important thing is doing everything for San Francisco right now.”
As Zito thrived, Cardinals starter Lance Lynn for the second time this series was knocked out of the game after just 3-2/3 innings. His outing Friday was uncannily similar to his Game 1 start last Saturday, when he no-hit the Giants through the first three innings before falling apart in the fourth.
Lynn, who spent the first part of the postseason working out of the bullpen, speculated this week that the switching between roles contributed to his Game 1 shakiness. He said the regular between-starts routine would help, but it didn’t work out that way.
On Friday, Lynn opened the fourth inning allowing a pair of singles. But after he struck out Buster Posey, he looked as if he might escape trouble with an inning-ending double play when he got Pence to hit a comebacker to the mound. But Lynn’s throw was so low it bounced off the front of the bag and into center field, and the error let Marco Scutaro race home from second.
One out later he walked Gregor Blanco, loading the bases. Brandon Crawford slapped a sharp single to center, scoring two. The misery continued, and Lynn’s night ended, when Zito pushed a bunt down the third-base line and beat out David Freese’s throw to first, making the score 4-0.
The Cardinals could not inflict similar damage on Zito, who retired 11 consecutive batters in one stretch.
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He had it all going. He put on quite a show.”
Pablo Sandoval homered for the second straight night in the eighth to complete the Giants’ scoring.
|San Francisco||000 400 010||—||5||6||0|
|St. Louis||000 000 000||—||0||7||1|
E — Lynn (1). LOB — San Francisco 5, St. Louis 7. 2B — Craig (1), Freese (2). HR — Sandoval (2), off Boggs. RBI — Sandoval (4), B.Crawford 2 (4), Zito (1). SB — Belt (1), Beltran (1). S — Zito. Runners left in scoring position — San Francisco 3 (Pagan 2, G.Blanco); St. Louis 5 (Craig, Lynn 2, Descalso 2). RISP — San Francisco 2 for 8; St. Louis 0 for 7. Runners moved up — Y.Molina. GIDP — Lynn. DP — San Francisco 1.
|Zito W, 1-0||7-2/3||6||0||0||1||6||0.00|
|Lynn L, 0-1||3-2/3||4||4||0||2||6||4.91|
Pitches — Zito 115, S.Casilla 7, Romo 21, Lynn 66, J.Kelly 12, Rosenthal 27, Boggs 24, Mujica 7. Inherited runners-scored — S.Casilla 1-0, J.Kelly 2-0. IBB — off Zito (Kozma). Umpires — Home, Ted Barrett; First, Jerry Layne; Second, Gary Darling; Third, Chris Guccione; Right, Greg Gibson; Left, Bill Miller. T — 3:03. A — 47,075.
|San Francisco 5, St. Louis 0; Cardinals lead NLCS 3-2|
St. Louis at San Francisco, 4:45 p.m.,
|x-St. Louis at San Francisco, 5:07 p.m., Ch. 13|
|World Series: Game 1, Detroit at NL champion, TBA, Ch. 13|