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Fan’s Preview: Can Barry Zito Save Giants Postseason Again in NLCS Game 5?

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The San Francisco Giants are just one game away from elimination again, a story familiar to them not too long ago in this postseason. Once again, they'll hope Barry Zito can provide some good pitching and a little bit of luck in order to prolong their chances at another World Series appearance. Just last week in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds, Zito lasted just 2 2/3 innings and allowed two runs and four walks, but the Giants' hitters led them to the 8-3 road victory. Despite a couple shaky outings, the Giants have won 12 straight games started by Zito going all the way back to the first win of the streak on August 7 against the opponent for this game, the St. Louis Cardinals.

If the Giants find a way to win Game 5, they'll have a chance at repeating what they accomplished in the NLDS. After losing their first two games at home against the Reds, they went to the Great American Ball Park and won three straight game in the Reds' backyard. A rally against the Cardinals would also require three straight wins but instead would bring the series back for Games 6 and 7 in San Francisco at AT&T Park. However, this start by Zito is of utmost importance, especially since the Cardinals had the best batting average (.276), best on-base percentage (.338) and second-best slugging percentage (.450) in the National League against left handlers during the regular season.

As for the Cardinals, with their win on Thursday, they are just one win away from meeting the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. If they want to avoid a return trip to San Francisco for Game 6 and possibly Game 7, St. Louis would like to see Lance Lynn have a better pitching performance than what he had in Game 1 of the NLCS. In his first postseason start of his career, he lasted only 3 2/3 innings and allowed four runs in a game that was won by the Cardinals' success of Madison Bumgarner and effective bullpen. Given the success of their bats in this series, a decent outing by Lynn followed by the entrance of a dominant bullpen staff could be enough to end the NLCS at home.

Matchup:

The San Francisco Giants will visit the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium located in St. Louis, MO on Friday, October 19, 2012 at 5:00 p.m. PT.

Series record:

Cardinals lead 3-1.

Starting pitcher matchup:

San Francisco: Barry Zito

2012 regular season: 15-8, 4.15 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 114 Ks

Career regular season numbers vs. Cardinals: 2-6, 4.89 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 44 Ks

Career regular season numbers at Busch Stadium: 1-3, 8.20 ERA, 1.98 WHIP, 17 Ks

St. Louis: Lance Lynn

2012 regular season: 18-7, 3.78 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 180 Ks

Career regular season numbers vs. Giants: 0-2, 7.15 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 11 K

Career regular season numbers at Busch Stadium: 9-5, 3.13 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 102 Ks

Where to watch and listen to the game:

The game can be nationally watched on FOX and heard live on ESPN Radio.

Key contributors of Game 4:

San Francisco:

Marco Scutaro - 2-for-4, scored run in ninth inning

Pablo Sandoval - 1-for-4, two-run home run in ninth inning

Hunter Pence - 1-for-4, solo home run in second inning (first RBI of postseason)

St. Louis:

Jon Jay - 2-for-5, one run, two RBIs

Matt Carpenter - 1-for-3, two runs, two walks

Matt Holliday - 2-for-5, one run, two RBIs

Yadier Molina - 2-for-4, one run, two RBIs

Adam Wainwright - 7.0 innings pitched, four hits allowed, one run scored, five strikeouts

Sources:

Cards aim to finish Giants, return to Fall Classic, MLB.com

Giants-Cardinals Preview, AP

Barry Zito Game Log, Yahoo! Sports

More from this contributor:

Tim Lincecum Gets First 2012 Postseason Start in NLCS Game 4: Fan's Preview

Fan's Preview - Will Chris Carpenter and Ryan Vogelsong Fare Better in NLCS Game 2?

NLCS Game 1 Features Giants' Madison Bumgarner vs. Cardinals' Lance Lynn: Fan's Preview

Giants Beat Reds in Game 5 for Historic Comeback, Advance to NLCS: Fan's Reaction

San Francisco Giants Face Cincinnati Reds in Winner-Take-All Game 5: Fan's Preview

Austin Chang is a lifelong San Francisco Bay Area native, baseball fan, and supporter of the San Francisco Giants. Follow this Featured Contributor on Twitter @_austinchang.

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