The San Francisco Giants are heading home after extending the National League Championship Series to a sixth game by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0.
Barry Zito allowed six hits in 7 2/3 scoreless innings as the Giants avoided elimination last night. The Cardinals still lead the best-of-seven Major League Baseball playoff series three games to two. Game 6 is tomorrow night. If the Giants win, a decisive Game 7 would be Oct. 22 in San Francisco.
The winner will play the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Detroit swept the AL Championship Series four games to none against the New York Yankees.
“We have our work cut out for us, but getting it back in San Francisco and having the fans as a factor for us is a big thing,” Zito said in a televised interview.
The Tigers are 2-3 favorites this morning to win the World Series, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book. The Cardinals were at 2-1, followed by the Giants at 13-2.
Zito, 34, has had a roller-coaster career. He was the Cy Young Award winner as the American League’s best pitcher while with the Oakland Athletics in 2002, and signed a seven-year, $126 million free-agent deal with the Giants in 2006 that was the largest contract in MLB history for a pitcher at the time.
He has gone 58-69 with the Giants, and struggled so much in 2010 that he was left off the postseason roster as San Francisco won the World Series. He rebounded to go 15-8 this season while making 32 starts.
“He pitched at his finest -- in and out, up and down,” Giants catcher Buster Posey said of Zito, who walked one and struck out six. “His preparation is second to none.”
The Giants scored four runs in the fourth inning, and they all were unearned. The first run scored on a throwing error by St. Louis starting pitcher Lance Lynn. Brandon Crawford followed with a two-run single and Zito added a run-scoring bunt single for the fourth run.
Pablo Sandoval added a solo home run in the eighth inning, his second homer in as many games.
“You have to play with your heart,” Sandoval said. “We want to stay in the game. We’re going to play hard at home.”
Carlos Beltran, 35, returned to the Cardinals’ lineup after missing a game with a strained left knee. Beltran went 1-for-4 and is hitting .382 (13-for-34) with three home runs, five doubles and six runs batted in this postseason.
The Giants became the first team in NL history to rally from a 2-0 deficit to win a five-game divisional series in the previous playoff round against the Cincinnati Reds.
“We were never thinking for a second that these guys were going to go away,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said in a news conference. “Today we had a guy come out there and pitch us tough, and we didn’t get the execution when we needed it.”