MLB Playoffs: Zito Saves San Francisco

It’s been a long time coming for San Francisco Giants fans to see the kind of performance they got from Barry Zito last night in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. Zito, who has been mostly a disappointment since signing a big-money free-agent contract following the 2006 season, reached back and found some of his old self.

The Zito who won the 2002 Cy Young Award or who outdueled Johan Santana back in 2006 when both were still aces in the American League playoffs, made an appearance last night in St. Louis. Zito worked 7.2 IP of shutout baseball with the Giants season on the line and made sure this series will go back to San Francisco thanks to Friday night’s 5-0 win.

Zito not only outpitched, but he outhit and out-fielded St. Louis counterpart Lance Lynn. The Cards had a chance for some runs in the second inning when they loaded the bases with one out. Zito induced Lynn to hit into a double play. Then in the top of the fourth it was time for the Giants’ offense. A crucial throwing error by Lynn brought in one run, Zito dropped a two-out bunt single for another and San Fran’s four-run outburst gave them a lead that would never be threatened.

On the positive side for St. Louis, Carlos Beltran returned to the lineup last night and had a single and a stolen base in the first inning. And even though the Cardinals missed a chance to clinch at home, they can look at the bigger picture and say it probably wasn’t realistic to think they’d go 2-0 with Lynn on the mound, and they’d already bailed out their struggling starter with a Game 1 win.

It’s really Game On in this series right now when the MLB playoffs resume Sunday night out west. Ryan Vogelsong will pitch for San Francisco and he’s been brilliant in two postseason starts, one of them a must-win in Cincinnati, the other in Game 2 of this series.

Chris Carpenter will pitch for St. Louis. His recent postseason heroics need no introduction, although they didn’t include the aforementioned Game 2 when the Giants hit him hard.

And if the series goes to Game 7 on Monday night? Then it’s the battle of aces, Matt Cain and Kyle Lohse. The Cardinal pitcher won the Game 3 battle between the two, but if you’re a Frisco fan, the chance to get Cain on the mound at home in a winner-take-all game is exactly what you would have wanted at the outset of the series.