ST. LOUIS -- Maybe these San Francisco Giants do have some special aura.
Maybe they are just lucky.
Or, as Hunter Pence put it, "Maybe we are procrastinators."
There is no maybe about the fact that so far these Giants of 2012 have shown an impressive ability to survive in the regular season, the National League Division Series and now the NLCS.
Check out that scenario at Busch Stadium on Friday night. They were facing an elimination game for the fourth time this season. They were on the road. And veteran Barry Zito, who wasn't deemed good enough to even been on the postseason roster two years ago, was stepping to the mound in a ballpark where he had a career 8.20 ERA.
Next thing the Cardinals and their Busch Stadium postseason record-setting crowd of 47,075 knew, Zito had pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings, including getting out of a second-and-third, nobody-out mess in the second inning. The Giants had claimed a 5-0 victory, their second win in five games with the Cardinals. And the best-of-seven NLCS was headed back to San Francisco for a Game 6 on Sunday and possibly Game 7 on Monday to decide the NL opponent for the Tigers in the World Series.
Largest margin of victory by the Giants in a shutout during the postseason
"We're just excited we're going home and still playing ball at this point," said manager Bruce Bochy.
It's not like what lies ahead of the Giants will be easy, but remember this is a team that after losing the first two games of the NLDS to the Reds went to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati and became the second team to ever win three games on the road in a best-of-five series -- the first to do it in three consecutive games.
"We have had a lot of big performances when we needed a big performance, like what Barry gave us [Friday]," said Pence, a mid-season addition from Philadelphia. "[Zito] gave us a big lift. We can build off that, but we have to stay focused on our preparation for the next game, too. We have to pay attention to details."
San Francisco is a team that lived through the loss of closer Brian Wilson to reconstructive right elbow surgery in April, and middle-of-the-lineup All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera to a 50-game drug suspension in mid-August. The Giants never blinked, not even when the Dodgers made their in-season radical roster makeover. San Francisco moved atop the NL West standings on Aug. 20, and never slipped out of first place the rest of the way.
"I think the perseverance through the whole season is where we draw the confidence that it is not over until the last out is made," said Game 6 starter Ryan Vogelsong. "When you can't lose, I think we definitely do play a little bit harder."
They did in Cincinnati.
And now they get the opportunity to finish up a similar rebound in San Francisco.
The odds are certainly against them.
Eight of the last 10 NLCS have been lost by the team with the home-field advantage, which is the Gaints this time around.
The Giants have lost the seven previous best-of-seven series they have played in when they have lost Game 1 -- in this series, 6-4, on Sunday at AT&T Park -- and San Francisco is winless in eight previous best-of-seven series in which it lost two of the first three games, which the Giants did this time.
Twenty-seven of the previous 33 teams that lost three of the first four games have lost the series, including the last seven. Boston, in the 2007 ALCS against Cleveland, is the last team to overcome that deficit.
And the Giants have managed to only split four games with the Cardinals at AT&T Park this year -- splitting two May 16-17 during the regular season, and then the first two games of the NLCS on Sunday and Monday.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have won 10 of their last 14 road postseason road games, including becoming the first team to ever overcome a deficit of four or more runs in an elimination game when they rallied at Nationals Park from a 6-0 deficit to a 9-7 win thanks to a two-out, four-run ninth in Game 5.
And, don't overlook the fact that while Chris Carpenter did start for St. Louis in San Francisco's 7-1 victory in Game 2 at AT&T Park, the right-hander is considered St. Louis' heart and soul, and is 10-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 17 career postseason starts. Andy Pettitte, with 19 wins, is the only active pitcher who has more postseason victories than Carpenter.
"They are excited about going home and rightfully so," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "We've got our hands full. Hopefully we'll catch a flight [Saturday] and have everybody get their heads right and show up Sunday for a tough game."
Against these Giants, it would be foolish to think it would be any other way.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.