ST. LOUIS The mantra of the day was not one Hunter Pence needed to deliver in a dugout speech. It was more of an understanding in the Giants' clubhouse before Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night, before Barry Zito climbed the mound or Brandon Crawford supplied the clutch hit the Giants had been craving.
"To get back home," Crawford said.
With a 5-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Giants did just that. Now it's back to San Francisco with the Giants trailing in the series 3-2, for a rematch of Game 2 between Ryan Vogelsong and Chris Carpenter that will be played Sunday not in the Midwestern chill but before the orange-clad masses at AT&T Park.
It returns on the back of Zito, who authored 7 2/3 innings for his first scoreless postseason start and, by his own admission, probably the biggest start of his career. The Giants, facing elimination, won for the 13th Zito start in a row. His was the longest outing by a Giants starter in these playoffs.
"I couldn't be happier for him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I don't know how many times we needed to win this year, (and) he found a way to get it done for us."
"We're not here to fold," Pence said. "We got here because we're going to fight. Zito, you can't give enough credit to him. That was a tremendous performance."
Zito, who was left off the postseason roster in 2010 and lasted 2 2/3 innings in his division series start against Cincinnati, never threw his fastball above the mid-80s but had command of all his pitches and kept the Cardinals' hitters guessing.
How else to explain Carlos Beltran, who owns the best postseason slugging percentage in baseball history, swinging through a letter-high fastball at 85 mph to begin the sixth inning or Pete Kozma doing the same to end the seventh?
"The curveball was huge," catcher Buster Posey said. "His ability to throw that curveball for strikes made the fastball a lot more effective."
The curveball got Zito out of his biggest jam. Yadier Molina led off the second with a single, and David Freese's blooper fell in front of Pence in right field, giving the Cardinals runners on second and third with a chance at momentum and an early lead.
Zito struck out Daniel Descalso, then walked Kozma to load the bases for St. Louis' starting pitcher, Lance Lynn. Swinging away, Lynn topped a curveball into an inning-ending double play.
"That was one of the turning points of the game," Posey said. "With their offense, you don't want them to start rolling."
Zito, who came in with a career 8.20 ERA at Busch Stadium, allowed only three more hits until leaving in the eighth, keeping the Cardinals off the bases and an expectant announced crowd of 47,075 in their seats.
He had help. Pence and Angel Pagan made charging, sliding catches in the outfield. After Pence's in the fifth, Marco Scutaro ranged to his left for a grounder and spun on a knee to throw out Shane Robinson at first.
"I've seen a lot of ground balls hit in that spot," Pence said. "I don't think I've ever seen that play be made."
Zito contributed with the bat in the Giants' four-run fourth, which turned on an error by Lynn. Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval singled, Posey struck out, and Pence hit a chopper in front of the mound. Lynn fielded it and threw to second, but his throw hit the bag and ricocheted away, sending Scutaro home and Sandoval to third.
Three batters later, with the bases loaded, Crawford shot Lynn's full-count curveball up the middle to put the Giants up 3-0. In 20 at-bats with the bases loaded, Crawford has 22 RBIs and an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of 1.004.
"I think that was the difference momentum-wise," Zito said.
Zito then bunted down the third-base line and beat it out to score Gregor Blanco.
Sandoval added insurance in the eighth, launching Mitchell Boggs' high, inside fastball into the right-field seats.
In the bottom half, Zito got Beltran to fly out before exiting.
"It's just a plethora of things that I've done and gone through here with the Giants," Zito said. "But the most important thing was to come out and give everything I've got and let the Cardinals play out how they did. So I think that's what happened tonight."