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San Francisco Giants Win Games 5 and 6 to Force Game 7 Against the St. Louis Cardinals

Game 5

With their backs against the wall in a 3-1 series, the San Francisco Giants kept their playoff hopes alive last Friday night, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0 behind a dominant pitching performance by Barry Zito, who hadn’t won a playoff game since 2006. St. Louis was a -145 moneyline favorite heading into the game and Zito, for as much flak as he gets, is definitely an “under” pitcher: the line was set at 7.5 total runs for this game, and Zito is 5-1 covering the under in his last six starts.

“This is definitely it for me,” Zito said. “Coming here, especially doing it in a Giants uniform. A lot of people were saying stuff about A’s days. And for me, the most important thing is doing everything for San Francisco right now.”

Zito has largely been a disappointment since signed a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Giants in 2006. He’s lost a lot of his velocity, but what is left is a crafty veteran pitcher that delivered in the biggest spot imaginable, prolonging the NLCS and saving the San Francisco Giants’ season.

“He knows he’s not throwing 90 miles an hour anymore,” Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt said. “But he’s got the slider, the cutter, the curve, the sinker, up, down, the slower curve ball. I mean, it’s really hard. I think most hitters would tell you they’d rather face 100 miles an hour straight than a guy who throws 86 with movement and can cut, sink, flip it up there, ‘eephus’ it up there, whatever it takes.”

For now, Zito has done enough; Ryan Vogelsong pitched a brilliant game in Game 6, and the Giants lights-out ace Matt Cain will take the mound in Game 7. Still, Zito’s performance should join the ranks of great pressure situation performances ever by a pitcher.

Game 6

The Cardinals came into Game 6 looking to rebound from a stiff blow from the Giants in Game 5. They sent Chris Carpenter to the mound to stem the bleeding, but he didn’t get the job done: he pitched only four innings, gave up six hits and put up a 4.50 ERA. Ryan Vogelsong, meanwhile, continued his hot pitching for the Giants, giving up four hits in seven innings while striking out nine and earning a 1.29 ERA. The Giants were -115 moneyline favorites in this game, and they showed their continued unwillingness to lose to the Cardinals.

The looming Game 7 matchup is a fantastic pitchers’ duel between the Birds’ Kyle Lohse and Giants’ ace Matt Cain. However, Cain has been the shakier pitcher thus far this postseason, going 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA, while Lohse is 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA. However, whichever team wins the series is going to run into a well-rested Detroit squad that swept the struggling Yankees clean out of the playoffs and have been waiting several days for the outcome of the NLCS. Detroit is a tough team that scrapped through the AL Central all season and got hot at the exact right moment. Oh, and they also have two of the best baseball players on earth right now, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and likely Cy Young winner Justin Verlander.

“I just reminded everybody when we took our punches all year, ‘You know what? Let’s just wait till the end, and then if we have underachieved, I will be the first one to admit it,” Leyland said. “So hopefully we’ve quieted some doubters now. The guys just stepped it up when we had to. We caught a couple breaks when the White Sox couldn’t win a couple of games they needed to win.”

Leyland is being modest. Whichever NL team advances to the World Series, they will have to be considered underdogs to this red-hot Tigers squad.

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