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Barry Zito dominant in Giants' 1-0 victory


SAN FRANCISCO — Oh, the indignity of being a Cardinal on Friday.

First, the St. Louis players had to sit through the Giants' banner-raising ceremony, thinking all along it should have been them showered with pomp and circumstance. The Cardinals were one win away from the World Series before coughing up a three-games-to-one lead over San Francisco in the 2012 National League Championship Series.

Then, with a chance to sound a small note of revenge and take a baby step toward shaking up the balance of power, St. Louis went out and got blanked by Barry Zito — the guy who got that comeback rolling in last year's playoffs.

Zito was dominant over seven innings, and Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo each pitched an inning of perfect relief in the Giants' 1-0 victory at AT&T Park in the 2013 home opener.

"Yeah, just coming back here, a good reminder of how things ended for us," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said before Friday's game.

"Our guys have a great deal of respect for the Giants organization and the team last year. We also respect the fact that we thought we could have put a better finish on it than we did."

And they could have put a better start on it this time around. Dipping back into the NLCS, the Giants have now held the Cardinals scoreless over 21 consecutive innings, and have allowed them just one run in 37 innings.

Asked whether he has the Cardinals' number, Zito answered: "I would never say I have anyone's number. This game's too crazy and too volatile to ever get up on my haunches like that."

But the whammy against St. Louis is only one impressive roll the Giants are currently riding. There is San Francisco's winning streak with Zito on the mound, a spree that dates back to Aug. 7 and has now reached 15 straight games.

The left-hander is 10-0 during the streak, and has yielded two runs or fewer in 10 of those games.

Then there is the collective performance of the Giants' starting pitchers in this young season: four games, 26 innings, zero earned runs.

These guys have been all but untouchable.

"What a way to start off our season, with the four starts we've gotten up to this point from our starters," said Romo, who picked up his third save. "And then we got Vogey (Ryan Vogelsong) as our fifth starter. It seems to be an extreme luxury around here."

The Giants needed all of Zito's looping curveballs and pinpoint accuracy Friday, because they were having a heck of a time hitting St. Louis' Jake Westbrook, who pitched 6? innings and gave up just one unearned run.

The Giants loaded the bases in the third inning when the suddenly versatile Zito opened with a single and, two outs later, was followed by walks to Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey. But Westbrook ended the threat by getting Hunter Pence to ground out to first base.

The Giants finally broke through in the fourth, sparked by a one-out walk to Gregor Blanco and a single by Brandon Crawford. Zito put a bunt down to advance the runners, and St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ball. Everyone was safe. Westbrook then walked Angel Pagan on four pitches to bring in a run before escaping further damage.

It was a tense game that followed a highly joyous and occasionally emotional pregame ceremony, as the Giants hoisted another World Series banner — their second in three years — into a sky worthy of a seascape oil painting.

Manager Bruce Bochy got the festivities rolling, magically appearing through a gap in the center-field fence to deliver the 2012 trophy to a pedestal behind second base, just a few feet from the 2010 hardware.

"I tried to pawn it off today. I did," Bochy said.

"I was offering money. I felt like 'I'm ball-hogging right now.' But it's an honor, believe me, to walk in, in front of a packed house, with the World Series trophy."

Master of ceremonies Jon Miller introduced the entire team, down to massage therapist and base coaches, before asking the crowd to observe a moment of silence for Giants "family members" who died in the past year, in addition to Cardinals great Stan Musial and victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The banner itself made a showy entrance, transported by a San Francisco Fire Department boat through the traffic of McCovey Cove, then passed to a small group of longtime Giants fans who carried the flag through a portal in right-center. One elderly woman wore a Tim Lincecum jersey with FREAK printed on the back.

The elders were met in center field by Lincecum, Bochy, Romo, Vogelsong, Matt Cain, Hunter Pence and Angel Pagan; they folded up the banner and proceeded to a ladder in the Triples Alley section of the stadium. As Bochy, the beat-up old catcher, contentedly watched from the field, the players ascended the stairs, made their way through adoring fans and took turns on the pulley that raised the flag skyward.

"Tremendous ceremony," Bochy said. "All the guys would tell you the same thing. Your emotions just flying. To see the flag coming in, and to see how the fans are involved, it's overwhelming.

"It really is. It's amazing what (the players) did last year, and they're getting all the attention and hoopla that they deserve. And you still have to get ready to play a good ballgame. And they did that, too."

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.