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MLB MLB PlayoffsSan Francisco GiantsSt Louis Cardinals

Why the NLCS is Far From Over

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

The San Francisco Giants are in a tough predicament in a Game 5 of the NLCS  against the St. Louis Cardinals and facing the brink of elimination. However, its a spot that they’ve dug themselves out of before and they can do it again.

In the NLDS, the Giants fought their way back from a 2-0 deficit against the Cincinnati Reds to compile three straight wins, all of which came on the road.  Now, they’re faced with the same task, sending a familiar face to the mound in a pivotal elimination game.

On Friday night, San Francisco will hand the ball to Barry Zito who will face St. Louis’ Matt Lynn in a must-win Game 5.  The veteran lefty has had some recent success during the regular season, winning seven straight regular season games to end the campaign (3.92 ERA during the stretch run), and, while doing so, earned some renewed faith in his teammates and Giants fans everywhere.

What’s his secret, you ask?

Zito’s chalked it up to something simple and letting go of all that bitterness that’s accumulated over the years when he became, more or less, the laughing stock of the league.

“When you start hating the world, it’s a heavy burden on your shoulders every day,” Zito said.  “You can’t hate the world.  You can’t get (mad) at every little person that says something to you.”

Still, the Giants must contain a Cardinals offense that’s found their swing in the last two of three games.  On Thursday night, St. Louis exploded for eight runs, even without the services of their leading man Carlos Beltran.  They were fueled by Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Jon Jay, who combined for six runs and six RBIs, the Cardinals ran away with Game 4 and are sitting pretty with a two game lead on the Giants in the NLCS.

But the Giants season is far from done.

Simply put, when Zito starts, he gets run support.  In fact, the Giants score a team-best 4.69 runs per contest with him on the mound.  Moreover, the Giants offense is due to breakout of its two-game slump.  The heart of the lineup — Buster Posey and Hunter Pence — are averaging .182 and .171, respectively.  During the season, Posey put up MVP numbers (.336/.408/.549) while Pence has followed suit with some timely hitting, something he hasn’t been executing thus far in the playoffs.  The law of averages is sure to fix these shortcomings.

And fortunately, if the Giants can steal Game 5 with a solid performance from Zito, the team will turn to their ace Matt Cain in San Francisco, where he is an impressive 2.03 ERA at home.  The team is even better.  As a whole, the Giants have a 48-33 record, which gives them an obvious advantage at just the right time.

So, not only does a Game 5 win stir the Giants faithful at home for an excruciatingly exciting Game 6 on Sunday, but give them the momentum they desperately need to carry a come-from-behind series victory, a la the NLDS.