Grading NLCS Game 5: Barry Zito, Giants defense send series back to San Francisco

Hunter Pence and the Giants brought the leather in Game 5 of the NLCS. (Getty Images)

Related: Zito turns back the clock | Playoffs schedule

ST. LOUIS -- The Giants have now won four elimination games this postseason, as San Francisco defeated St. Louis 5-0 in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Friday to force Sunday's Game 6.

Bruce Bochy: Give the Giants manager credit here -- he stuck with Barry Zito, despite having Madison Bumgarner ready. As bad as Bumgarner has been, he's come through more for Bochy than Zito has. And then, not only did Bochy stick with Zito, he kept sticking with him through the game, even as he had his moments in the first four innings. Instead he stuck with Zito into the eighth inning, the longest appearance of a Giants starter this postseason. Not only that, Bochy gambled in the second when he intentionally walked Cardinals' No. 8 hitter Pete Kozma to load the bases with one out. That decision turned into an inning-ending double play by Cardinals starter Lance Lynn.

Giants defense: Zito was very good on Friday, but he got some help from his defense, starting in the first when Pablo Sandoval made a diving catch to end the inning, stranding Carlos Beltran on third. Then, in the fifth inning, Hunter Pence made a sliding catch to take a hit away from Pete Kozma and the very next batter, pinch hitter Shane Robinson, was robbed by Marco Scutaro. Angel Pagan made his requisite highlight reel catch to end the sixth, taking a hit away from Allen Craig. The only thing that kept it from a perfect night was Brandon Belt letting Jon Jay's grounder in the eighth bounce off his arm. Jay was credited with a hit and then Zito and Santiago Casilla got out of the inning.

Giants bats: Overshadowed by Cy Zito was that the Giants bats didn't do much. San Francisco actually had one fewer hit than St. Louis, it's just that Lance Lynn's error helped them out and Brandon Crawford came up with the big hit. Sandoval's eighth-inning home run was their only extra-base hit of the night.

League Championship Series round: After all four League Division Series went the distance, we had a sweep in the ALCS and only two of the five NLCS games have been within two runs. The other three were decided by at least five runs. Of the five games in the NLCS, only one (Game 3) has even had a lead change.

Cardinals bats: Just like in their Game 2 loss to the Giants, the Cardinals went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. Carlos Beltran singled and stole second in the first, but was stranded there, while the Cardinals couldn't capitalize with runners on second and third and no outs in the third. St. Louis had another chance in the fourth after Allen Craig's leadoff double, when Yadier Molina's grounder back to Zito moved Craig over to third. But a line out and a ground out left him there.

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