NLCS Game 5: Barry Zito sends series back to San Francisco with 5-0 Giants win

Score and situation: These San Francisco Giants don't go quietly. Facing the possibility of elimination in NLCS Game 5, the Giants put together a 5-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night at Busch Stadium. The win narrows the Cardinals' series lead to 3-2 and sends the series back to San Francisco for Sunday's Game 6.

Leading lads: It took six years and $99 million, but the Giants finally have an outstanding highlight to show for the Barry Zito experience. The oft-maligned and richly-compensated lefthander threw 115 pitches over 7 2/3 shutout innings against the powerful Cardinals lineup to extend the Giants season at least one more game. Not only did Zito strike out six batters while allowing six hits and walking only one, but he also contributed offensively with a two-out bunt in the fourth that tacked on an extra run.

San Francisco scored all but one of its runs in the fourth, taking advantage of a Lance Lynn throwing error that allowed Marco Scutaro to score and created an opportunity for the Giants to add Brandon Crawford's two RBI single and Zito's RBI bunt.

Head hangers: Lynn gave up four runs over 3 2/3 innings though none were technically earned as a result of his throwing error. He also gave up four runs over the same time frame in the Cardinals' Game 1 victory, though obviously got a lot more run support. His lineup couldn't put anything together against Zito with Matt Holliday (0 for 4, three Ks) suffering the worst night at the plate.

Key play: Lynn's throwing error was big and put the Giants in the driver's seat for the rest of the night. But just as important was the double play that Zito got from Lynn with the bases loaded to end the second inning. The play allowed Zito to escape the frame after he had put runners on second and third to start the inning and set the tone for his highlight night.

Interesting stat: According to ESPN Stats and Info, Lynn is the first pitcher to notch a bases loaded GIDP since the Cubs' Rick Sutcliffe did it against the Giants in the 1989 NLCS.

What they'll be talking about: The Giants fell behind by two games in the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds and won three straight elimination games to advance. Can they pull off the same thing in the NLCS? They'll head back to AT&T Park for the final two games and arguably hold the advantage in the pitching matchups for Games 6 and 7. They'll have to win at home, though, where they're only 1-3 this postseason.

What's next: The series heads back to San Francisco for Game 6 at 7:37 ET on Sunday night. The scheduled pitching matchup is the same as it was in Game 2 — Chris Carpenter against Ryan Vogelsong. You'd normally give the Cards the edge in that faceoff, but Vogelsong was almost as good in Game 2 as Zito was in Game 5.

As has always been the case in this post-Bonds era in San Francisco, the pitching will have to carry them.

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Make sure all your bases are covered this postseason ...
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