ST. LOUIS -- Barry Zito ruined the St. Louis Cardinals' party.
With the Cardinals ready to celebrate a return trip to the World Series with a victory Friday night, Zito instead sent the National League Championship Series back to San Francisco by turning in a spectacular performance, leading the Giants to a 5-0 win.
Game 6 of the series, with the Cardinals leading 3-2, is scheduled for Sunday night. Chris Carpenter will start for St. Louis against Ryan Vogelsong in a rematch of the Game 2 pitching matchup.
Zito, who was knocked out of his only start in the NL Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds in the third inning, picked up his first win in a postseason start since the 2006 AL Division Series, when he pitched for the Oakland A's. The left-hander limited the Cardinals to six hits and one walk, which was intentional, while striking out six over 7 2/3 innings.
"I wanted to put the pressure on the hitters to put the ball in play," Zito said about the adjustments he made since his start last week. "I tried not to be too fine."
After getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning by inducing a groundball double play, Zito cruised through the seventh, allowing only a leadoff double by Allen Craig in the fourth and a two-out single by Daniel Descalso in the seventh. Zito retired 16 of the 18 batters in that stretch, including 11 in a row between the fourth and seventh.
By that time the Giants' offense had already knocked out St. Louis starter Lance Lynn and given Zito more than enough runs for the victory. They added an extra run in the eighth on Pablo Sandoval's second home run in as many nights.
For Zito, the win marked a comeback journey that started in 2010, when the Giants won the World Series but Zito was not on the team's active roster for any of their postseason series.
"It's hard to think about those things," Zito said. "It was certainly a huge blow, just personally, to be left off the roster. But you've got to be professional. You can't pout and such. I worked on things that offseason and came back stronger for it."
It was that professionalism, and how he came back from that disappointment, that was most impressive to manager Bruce Bochy and why he was especially pleased to see Zito have the kind of game he did against the Cardinals.
"I couldn't be happier for him," Bochy said. "He's done a great job for us this year. I don't know how many times we needed to win this year, and he found a way to get it done. He's been through a lot. You go back to 2010, but this guy is some kind of tough. We were comfortable with him on the mound and he had it all going tonight."
Zito had made only one previous start in a League Championship Series game in his career, for Oakland in 2006, when he failed to get out of the fourth inning against Detroit.
Beginning with his start on Aug. 7 in St. Louis and including his start last week in the Division Series, when the Giants rallied to win, San Francisco has won the last 13 games that Zito has started, with eight of the wins going to Zito. Friday, he threw 115 pitches, 73 for strikes, the most pitches he has thrown in a start in more than two years.
"He was pitching," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Zito. "He was raising eye level. He was at the top of the zone ... he was moving in and out, back and forth. He was taking speeds off his breaking ball and changeup. That's what pitching is. You don't have to have 99 (mph) on your fastball if you can locate and keep hitters off balance.
"We never, never got into a good groove. Zito didn't make many mistakes."
It was one mistake by Lynn that led to his downfall. A throw to second base, in an attempt to turn a double play, instead hit the base and bounded into the outfield, opening the door to a four-run fourth for the Giants.
"It was just a bad throw," said Lynn, who also got knocked out in the fourth inning in his Game 1 start in San Francisco. "I threw a ball into center field. I could have got myself out of the inning. It's definitely my fault."
Yadier Molina had singled to open the inning and David Freese followed with a double, both on the first pitch. After Descalso struck out, Pete Kozma was intentionally walked to load the bases. Lynn, who did not have a hit in the regular season after April 20, a span of 43 at-bats, broke his bat grounding into the inning-ending double play.
Notes: Carlos Beltran was back in the Cardinals' starting lineup in right field after missing Game 4 because of a strained left knee. He received an acupuncture treatment during the day on Friday, following by 4 1/2 hours of treatment at the ballpark before being cleared to play. ... Also in the lineup was outfielder Matt Holliday, whose mother, Kathy, underwent surgery for colon cancer Thursday at a St. Louis-area hospital. Holliday said the doctor told him he was pleased with the results of the surgery. ... After having Hector Sanchez catch Tim Lincecum in Game 4, the Giants went to the lineup they used in the first three games of the series, with Buster Posey catching and Brandon Belt at first base.