ST. LOUIS - The San Francisco Giants stayed alive in the National League Championship Series with a 5-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, cutting the series deficit to 3-2 thanks mostly to a commanding pitching performance by Barry Zito.

Zito used his precise placement and canny pitch selection to hold the Cardinals scoreless for 7 2-3 innings, putting the series back on an almost even keel as it returns to San Francisco for the last two games. Zito looked like the same guy who won the 2002 AL Cy Young award with the Oakland Athletics. He retired 11 batters in a row in one stretch while finishing with six strikeouts.

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.

"A lot of people were saying stuff about A's days," Zito said. "And for me, the most important thing is doing everything for San Francisco right now."

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 Cincinnati Reds earlier in this year's playoffs and lasted only 2 2-3 innings.

The Giants scored four runs in the fourth inning when the defending champion Cardinals might have literally thrown away a chance to clinch a second straight World Series trip.

On a forceout, pitcher Lance Lynn spun around and threw to second base in the hope of turning a double play, but his low throw deflected off the bag and into shallow right field, allowing one run to score on the play. With two outs and a full count, Brandon Crawford singled up the middle with the bases loaded. Lynn narrowly missed stopping the ball with his foot, and two more runs scored.