The San Francisco Giants stayed alive in the National League Championship Series with a 5-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, cutting the series deficit to 3-2 thanks mostly to a commanding pitching performance by Barry Zito.
Zito used his precise placement and canny pitch selection to hold the Cardinals scoreless for 7 2-3 innings, putting the series back on an almost even keel as it returns to San Francisco for the last two games.
Zito looked like the same guy who won the 2002 AL Cy Young award with the Oakland Athletics. He retired 11 batters in a row in one stretch while finishing with six strikeouts.
It was Zito's first postseason win since 2006, shortly before he left the A's and signed a $126 million, seven-year contract with San Francisco.
"A lot of people were saying stuff about A's days," Zito said. "And for me, the most important thing is doing everything for San Francisco right now."
Zito was left off the postseason roster when the Giants won the 2010 World Series because he had pitched so ineffectively. He started Game 4 of the division series against the Cincinnati Reds earlier in this year's playoffs and lasted only 2 2-3 innings.
"I couldn't be happier for him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He had it all going. He put on quite a show."
The Giants scored four runs in the fourth inning when the defending champion Cardinals might have literally thrown away a chance to clinch a second straight World Series trip.
On a forceout, pitcher Lance Lynn spun around and threw to second base in the hope of turning a double play, but his low throw deflected off the bag and into shallow right field, allowing one run to score on the play.
Zito, who has just 30 career hits and nine RBIs, made it 10 runs batted in when he laid down a perfect bunt for a fourth run of the inning, all stemming from Lynn's throwing error.
"I don't mind him being aggressive if he's got the play," manager Mike Matheny said. "(Shortstop Pete) Kozma was in the right place, he just made a low throw.
"And to do it over again, I'm sure he'd like to take the easy out at first base."
The Giants have won Zito's past 13 starts and are averaging more than six runs a game during the streak, although the lefty didn't need much help in this one.
The Cardinals are seeking consecutive pennants for the first time since 1967-68, and trying to advance to the World Series for the second year in a row as a wild-card entry. One more win would set up a rematch of the 2006 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, which the Cardinals took in five games.
Lynn, an 18-game winner his first year in the rotation, failed to make it out of the fourth for the second time in the series.
Lynn struck out five of the first 10 batters, sailing through the first three innings with no balls hit out of the infield, only to let himself down in the fourth.
The Cardinals best chance came in the second inning when Yadier Molina and David Freese - both swinging on the first pitch - opened the inning with a single and double, getting runners on second and third with no outs. However Lynn, a career .056 hitter, hit into a bases-loaded double play to end the threat.
Pablo Sandoval made it 5-0 in the eighth with a homer just inside the foul pole in right field; his second homer in as many nights.
Game 6 is on Sunday, with Ryan Vogelsong pitching for the Giants against Chris Carpenter.