When John Smoltz started a game for the Braves in 1996, Atlanta got to celebrate a victory 30 times and had to contend with a defeat on only 10 occasions. Four of the 30 victories came in that year's postseason, when Smoltz made five starts, threw 38 innings, posted a 0.95 ERA, held opponents to a .163 batting average and a .215 slugging percentage, and struck out 33 against 13 walks.
The third of Smoltz's four postseason wins came on Oct. 14, when the right-hander allowed seven hits and a walk, fanned six and held the St. Louis Cardinals scoreless for seven innings. When the final out was recorded, the Braves had a 14-0 win and Smoltz had claim to an accomplishment never before seen in MLB history: starting in a League Championship Series game on the road with his team down, 3-1, he had authored a performance that ultimately enabled his club produce a shutout victory to keep the series alive.
It took 16 years, but Smoltz now has some company in the form of Giants left-hander Barry Zito.
National League Championship Series: Cardinals vs. Giants
Zito (7 2/3 innings, six hits) and two relievers combined on a seven-hit shutout Friday, and the Giants beat the Cardinals, 5-0. With the victory, the Giants stayed alive in the series and head back to San Francisco down, 3-2.
The Giants' 5-0 win marked the eighth time a team shut out its opponent in a Game 5 of an LCS. In four of the eight scenarios, the shutout was authored by a club down, 3-1, in the series.
San Francisco's shutout was the first in the playoffs for the club since Game 4 of the 2010 World Series, and 18th in the franchise's postseason history. Four of the 18 came during the '10 postseason, and another four were produced in the 1905 World Series. Friday's game was the seventh of the 18 that came in a start by a left-hander.
Giants Postseason Shutouts in Game Started by Left-Hander
1917 WS, G3
1917 WS, G4
1921 WS, G8
1923 WS, G3
1987 NLCS, G2
2010 WS, G4
8 IP, 3 hits
2012 NLCS, G5
7.2 IP, 6 hits
Zito picked up his first postseason win since Game 1 of the 2006 ALDS, when he led the Athletics to a 3-2 victory over the Twins with eight innings of four-hit, one-run ball. Overall, Zito improved his postseason record to 5-3 with a 2.96 ERA in nine starts.
The Cardinals were blanked in a postseason game for the first time since Game 4 of the 2011 World Series, when another lefty -- the Rangers' Derek Holland -- led the way in a combined two-hit shutout.
Southpaws have made 72 postseason starts against St. Louis and own a 28-29 record. Zito was the third lefty starter for the Giants to record a win against the Cardinals, joining Dave Dravecky (Game 2, 1987 NLCS) and Kirk Rueter (Game 1, 2002 NLCS). Overall, when a Giants left-hander has started against the Cardinals in the postseason the clubs have split their eight games.
Pablo Sandoval went 2-for-4 with a home run -- his second homer in as many games and third of the 2012 postseason.
Sandoval was the 11th Giants player to homer in consecutive postseason games. Barry Bonds (2002) and Cody Ross ('10) homered in three straight, and Jeffrey Leonard had a streak of four consecutive games with home runs during the 1987 postseason.
Sandoval was the 22nd switch-hitter to homer in consecutive postseason games. Carlos Beltran owns the longest streak, homering in five straight in 2004. Before Sandoval, no switch-hitter had homered in consecutive postseason games since 2004, when Beltran, Mark Bellhorn, Bernie Williams and Lance Berkman all did it.
David Freese doubled for his only hit in four at-bats. Freese now has 20 career extra-base hits in 29 games. That total after that many postseason games is the third highest, behind the 22 from Nelson Cruz and the 21 from Beltran.
Freese has collected at least one extra-base hit in 15 postseason games. Game 5 marked only the second time in those 15 that the Cardinals finished on the losing side.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.