ST. LOUIS (AP) - The San Francisco Giants waited quite a while for this kind of performance from Barry Zito.
The soft-tossing lefty was at his best Friday night, pitching San Francisco back into the NL championship series with a 5-0 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals that narrowed its deficit to 3-2.
"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."
San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence reacts after making a diving catch against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game 5 of the NLCS.
The Giants' win in Game 5 sent the series to San Francisco. Game 6 will begin Sunday in the twilight at AT&T Park, with Ryan Vogelsong pitching against the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter.
Zito looked like the same guy who won the 2002 AL Cy Young award with the Athletics. He retired 11 batters in a row in one stretch while scattering six hits with six strikeouts in 7 2-3 innings.
Giants catcher Buster Posey twice tapped Zito on the chest when he was pulled in the eighth. 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.
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 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 defending champion Cardinals might have thrown away a chance to clinch a second straight World Series trip. Pitcher Lance Lynn's toss on a possible forceout deflected off the second-base bag, paving the way for the Giants' four-run fourth.
"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," he said.
Pablo Sandoval homered for the second straight night and Zito made an extremely rare offensive contribution with a perfectly executed bunt for an RBI single.
Giants defenders made several nice plays behind Zito, including a juggling catch in right by Hunter Pence and a spectacular sliding stop by second baseman Marco Scutaro to rob pinch hitter Shane Robinson on consecutive at-bats.