NLCS: Why the San Francisco Giants Can Battle Back Again


Oct 10, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) takes the ball form starting pitcher Barry Zito (75) in the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds in game four of the 2012 NLDS at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

The Giants sit in a position they are very familiar with at this point. They need to win three straight games to avoid elimination. This time, the stakes are higher, as the winner of this series will play the Tigers for all the marbles beginning next week. While two potential home games loom, the Giants must win Game 5 on Friday to return to AT&T Park where they’ve only won one postseason game this year.

That duty will be put in the hands of Barry Zito.

The Zito critics are still alive and well, waiting to seize the opportunity on Friday if Zito stumbles in his biggest game as a Giant. Again, all odds are against him. The Cardinals feasted on southpaws during the regular season, totaling an OPS of .787 against them which was the third best mark in baseball. For Zito, whose command is unpredictable, the Cardinals aren’t a perfect match up, as Tim Lincecum proved on Thursday night with his erratic command.

Then again, Zito has seemingly seized the spotlight all year. He came up huge against the Dodgers on June 25th, tossing seven shutout innings which would be a part of an N.L West separating sweep.

On August 23rd, he twirled eight stellar innings against the Braves. Against the Dodgers again on September 9th, he came up huge, pitching 6.1 shutout innings to put the final touches on the Western division. Simply put, he has come up big when the Giants have needed a win.

Friday, the Giants obviously need a win.

If Zito can flip the page on last week’s start against the Reds where he only pitched 2.2 innings and walked four, than he could erase everything bad about his Giants’ career so far. The contract, being left off the postseason roster in 2010, and everything in-between. It could all vanish if he comes up big. That is a powerful “if,” though.

More importantly, he could send the Giants back home with a chance to seize another miracle opportunity.

If the Giants get back home, they stand a decent chance with Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain slated to start in Games 6 and 7, respectively.

Vogelsong has the only win for the Giants in the series and has arguably been the Giants best pitcher this postseason. On Monday night, he allowed just one run over seven innings. Cain, on the other-hand, tossed 6.2 solid innings on Wednesday, allowing just three runs, but his offense was unable to bail him out of his second lost of the playoffs. Therefore, the Giants have who they want on the mound. It’s  Zito’s job to extend the series in order to give Vogelsong and Cain chances.

San Francisco’s pitching staff certainly hasn’t lived up to its lofty expectations. To avoid elimination, though, they must pitch the ball. If they don’t, the book will close on the 2012 season.