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Best Postseason Games: 2012 NLCS Game 5

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Oh Zito! My Zito! Our fearful trip is done.

San Francisco Giants v St Louis Cardinals - Game Five Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

How often do you encounter the word “gallop” in your daily life?

I have no idea what the answer is for me. I’m awful at these things. But it’s somewhere north of “occasionally” and south of “a lot.” It’s a decent amount.

But for the last seven-plus years, I only think of one thing when I hear the word gallop. Every time I hear the word gallop.

I can hear someone talking about galloping in passing, and I think of one thing. I can see a horse gallop, not even hear the damn word, and I think of one thing. I can see data from a Gallup poll, and I think of one thing.

Barry Zito. Game 5. 2012 NLCS.

Apologies for the grainy video from a random Twitter account, but MLB doesn’t like fun. Or baseball. So we’re working with what we’ve got.

Anywho.

Zito galloping down the first base line will always be one of my favorite San Francisco Giants plays, if for no other reason than the confluence of absurdities that it was comprised of. He,

A) Ran down the first base line as though the life of his entire family depended on it, and
B) Ran down the first base line as though he had never ran down the first base line - or anything - in his life.

You know those cooking shows, where the contestants have to do some outrageous baking task they’ve never done before, like make an edible roller-coaster out of only fondant, almonds, and succulents in 25 minutes? And they look completely befuddled because they never knew you could do that, let alone have any idea how to do that, and so they putz about looking about as comfortable as if they were wearing their own underwear for earrings?

And then one person, who ends up covered in spattered eggs and food coloring somehow kind of does a kickass job, and you have no idea how?

That was Barry Zito running down the first base line, saving the Giants season - a season that would, of course, conclude with the raising of a second World Series trophy.

The Giants didn’t need Zito to beat out that bunt. They already led 3-0, and that was all they needed to win the game. Yet the run-scoring, two-out bunt was the true embodiment of even-year BS, a shenanigan that was so hilarious that you knew, at that moment, there was no way the team was losing that game.

Had Brandon Belt hit a three-run home run to give the Giants a 6-0 lead, you would have wracked your brain for all the possible ways to blow a 6-run lead. There are a lot of plausible permutations, you’d grimly realize. But a Zito bunt? With two outs? To score a run?

It was game over.


Earlier in the week, Bryan wrote about how 2012 Zito was one of the best things to happen to the Giants this decade. You should read it, because he’s right.

The Giants gave Zito $127 milion - a number that, more than 12 years after giving to Zito, the team is still petrified of approaching - to have a 4.62 ERA and a losing record over seven years. And yes, I know that ERA and pitcher wins are hilariously antiquated, but they got lucky and tell a very accurate story here.

If you want to gripe about that money, go back and watch Game 5. He was worth every penny. Every penny, I tell you.

The season hung in the balance, and not for the first time. The Giants had already overcome a 2-0 deficit to the Cincinnati Reds in a five-game series, where they needed to win three straight games. Now, down 3-1 in a seven game series to the St. Louis Cardinals, they needed to do the same.

Season on the line, out came Zito. Zito, with a 4.15 ERA and 4.49 FIP. Zito, with the type of strikeout to walk ratio (114 to 70) that would make the 1950s smile. Zito, who had been left off the postseason roster just two years prior.

In the second inning he found himself pitching with runners at second and third, and no outs, and you found yourself heading for the liquor cabinet already. Pour one out for the 2012 Giants.

And then. He escaped, as the team did all postseason. And he put up scoreless frame after scoreless frame, tallying 7.2 innings of no-run ball, allowing just 7 basemen and striking out 6.

It was his finest moment as a Giant, and one that solidifies his stature in the #ForeverGiant club.

He wasn’t alone. That, too, was the theme of the 2012 Giants.

There was timely hitting, including a two-run, two-out single up the middle by Brandon Crawford. There was a home run by Pablo Sandoval, one of the best postseason performers of the modern Giants.

And there was Hunter Pence, being the epitome of Hunter Pence, becoming one of the most memable Giants of all-time.

San Francisco Giants v St Louis Cardinals - Game Five Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In reality, I probably sweated out every minute of this game. And then sweated out every minute of Games 6 and 7, plus the off days, plus the World Series.

But in hindsight, this game was a slow realization of what became abundantly clear: The Giants were gonna win the whole damn thing once more.