ST. LOUIS — It's a play Lance Lynn would love to have back.
But since do-overs are not allowed, Lynn will have to live with his throwing error that fueled San Francisco's four-run fourth inning that propelled it to a 5-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night.
With Giants baserunners at first and second with one out, Lynn fielded Hunter Pence's one-hopper to the first-base side of the mound, but his throw to second to start a possible double play ricocheted off the bag and rolled into short center field.
Marco Scutaro scored and Pablo Sandoval went to third. Three batters later, Brandon Crawford had a two-run single on a 3-2 pitch to make it 3-0 and pitcher Barry Zito followed with a bunt single to make it 4-0. It was all the Giants needed.
"I turned to throw it and I just threw it into the ground," a disgusted Lynn said. "It was just a bad play. I make a good throw there and maybe I'm out of the inning. It was one of those times when I short-armed it a little bit. Bad throw."
The Giants stayed alive in the best-of-seven series, cutting their deficit to 3-2 heading into Game 6 at 6:45 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The Cardinals will pitch Chris Carpenter against Ryan Vogelsong in a rematch of Game 2.
Lynn was dominant in his first three innings, keeping the Giants hitless and striking out five.
But it was merely a memory after the disastrous fourth. Lynn couldn't escape the inning, exiting after Zito's RBI. It was the second consecutive game Lynn has pitched just 3 2/3 innings.
"I didn't get the third (out)," Lynn said of the fourth. "I turned around and threw a ball into center field. I could have gotten myself out of an inning. It's definitely my fault.
"I was trying to get two to get out of the inning. One hundred percent, you're looking for two there. It was just a bad inning. At this time of the year, things can blow up on you if you give them that extra out, and I gave them the extra out tonight."
Lynn said he would take the type of stuff he had to the mound every outing, and manager Mike Matheny said the execution and movement on Lynn's pitches were electric.
"I thought he was as good as we've seen him all season those first three innings," Matheny said. "He looked like he was untouchable. He was mixing his off-speed pitches very well and executing his fastball instead of just trying to throw it past people."
Matheny said Lynn made the correct decision to try to start the double play with shortstop Pete Kozma covering second. Kozma, however, never really got to the bag, standing behind it when Lynn made his errant throw.
"I don't mind him being aggressive if he's got the play," Matheny said. "Kozma was in the right place; (Lynn) just made a low throw. To do it over again, I'm sure he would like to take the easy out at first base and then try his luck on (Brandon) Belt.
"It didn't work that way, and we were stuck in a spot where it just kind of spiraled at that point in a hurry. That was the game."
Second baseman Daniel Descalso was uncertain whether the Cardinals could have turned two with Pence running.
"But we needed to come out of that play with at least one out there," Descalso said. "They definitely took advantage of it. That was really the ballgame, that inning right there."
The Cardinals could do nothing with Zito, who permitted six hits in 7 2/3 innings, with one walk (intentional) and six strikeouts. St. Louis' best chance came in the second when Yadier Molina led off with a single and went to third on David Freese's double.
But Descalso struck out, and after Kozma was intentionally walked, Lynn broke his bat and hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
The Cardinals also wasted a leadoff double by Allen Craig in the fourth and finished 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
The Giants have won 13 consecutive games started by Zito.
"He was pitching," Matheny said. "He was raising the eye level. He was in the top of the zone, just above, on the edges, just off. He was moving it in and out, back and forth. He was taking speeds off his breaking ball and changeup. That's what pitching is."
The Cardinals remain confident that they're still in control, especially with Carpenter getting the ball in Game 6.
"We've got to win one more game and we have two chances to do it," said reliever Mitchell Boggs, who allowed Sandoval's eighth-inning homer that gave the Giants some insurance. "We're sending a guy out there who's pitched big for us. He's a guy who's got a history and has pitched his best in playoff baseball."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.