Giants continue Zito run, force Game 6

Frank Victores/US Presswire

Barry Zito struck out six hitters in 7⅔ scoreless innings against the Cardinals on Friday night to win his first postseason game since 2006.The San Francisco Giants took the lead with four runs in fourth inning Friday and that’s all Barry Zito would need as the Giants win to extend the National League Championship Series. Zito went 7⅔ scoreless innings for the victory as the NLCS shifts back to the Bay Area for Game 6 on Sunday.

Zito allowed just one walk on Friday and became the fourth Giants starter to pitch seven or more innings, allow zero runs, and walk one or fewer hitters in a game during the Live Ball Era (since 1920).

7+ IP, 0 R and 1 or Fewer BB
Giants Starters in Postseason

The win was the latest in a remarkable run of success the Giants have enjoyed in games started by Barry Zito. San Francisco has now won Zito’s last 13 starts dating back to August 2nd (11-0 regular season and 2-0 postseason).

For Zito, the Game 5 performance was a far cry from his only previous start in a championship series in 2006 for the Athletics. Zito allowed seven hits and five runs in that Game 1 loss against the Tigers and failed to get out of the fourth inning.

Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals, Zito used his fastball to put away hitters throughout the night.

In the game, Cardinals hitters were 2-for 10 with four strikeouts on at-bats that ended in Zito fastballs, Zito’s first game with at least four strikeouts on the pitch since July 31, 2011 at Cincinnati (also four). Zito also worked the ball up effectively, holding St. Louis hitless on five at-bats with three strikeouts on pitches up in the zone (All 3 strikeouts via fastball).

Regardless of the pitcher, it was a game of missed opportunities for the Cardinals. St. Louis went 1-for-13 with runners on base in Game 5 including 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Offensively for San Francisco, Pablo Sandoval became the first Giants player to homer from the left side of the plate in consecutive postseason games since Barry Bonds did so in each of the first three games of the 2002 World Series. Tonight’s home run came off of a Mitchell Boggs fastball, a pitch Sandoval had struggled with in the 2012 postseason.

Entering tonight, Sandoval was 4-for-21 (.190 BA) on at-bats that ended in fastballs during the playoffs with four strikeouts. In Game 5, Sandoval had a pair of hits against fastballs including that eighth-inning home run.

Won LCS after Trailing 3-1
Best-of-7 Series

Perhaps most remarkable, the win was the Giants’ fourth straight in a game in which they faced elimination during the 2012 postseason. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the four straight wins are two shy of the most in a single postseason in baseball history (1985 Royals).

The Giants also improved to 4-1 during the 2012 postseason when they score four or more runs in a game. They are 1-4 in games in which they fail to reach the four-run plateau.

Looking ahead for the Giants, six teams in baseball history have won a best-of-seven LCS after trailing three-games-to-one, last accomplished by the Red Sox in 2007 against the Indians.

The Cardinals have let three such leads slip away in a series of any kind before: 1968 World Series, 1985 World Series, and 1996 NLCS. Will the 2012 NLCS be the next?