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Barry Zito shuts down Cardinals in Game 5 of NLCS to keep Giants’ season alive

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With the Giants facing elimination, Barry Zito didn’t inspire much confidence coming into his start in Game 5 tonight. However, he turned in the best performance by a Giants’ starting pitcher this postseason while keeping his team’s season alive.

Zito limited to Cardinals to six hits over 7 2/3 shutout innings tonight as part of a 5-0 victory. The win means there will be a Game 6 on Sunday night back in San Francisco.

Despite topping out at just 86 mph, Zito struck out six and walked one (intentional) while throwing a season-high 115 pitches. The intentional walk came at a critical point in the game in the second inning, as it loaded the bases for opposing pitcher Lance Lynn, who grounded into an inning-ending double play. The southpaw was the beneficiary of some excellent defense and home plate umpire Ted Barrett gave him the edge on a few pitches, but this was a mighty impressive performance from an unexpected source.

The Giants chased Lance Lynn in the fourth inning by scoring four runs. The rally was capped by Zito (who else?), who dropped down a bunt and beat it out for a hit to drive in a run. Pablo Sandoval added a solo home run in the eighth inning, his second home run in as many days, for some extra insurance.

Many were ready to write the Giants off after Game 4 last night, but this series is suddenly far from finished. Ryan Vogelsong is lined up to start for the Giants in Game 6 on Sunday while the Cardinals will counter with Chris Carpenter. If there’s a Game 7 on Monday, it will be Matt Cain against Kyle Lohse.

Astros avoid arbitration with Mike Fiers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #54 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout after pitching an inning during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 17, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.

Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.

Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.

Raines to wear an Expos cap, Pudge to wear a Rangers cap on their Hall of Fame plaques

1990:  Outfielder Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos in action. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
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There is little if any controversy to be had about the caps this year’s inductees will wear on their Hall of Fame plaques, but in case there was any doubt at all, it was put to rest this afternoon at the Hall of Fame press conference: Tim Raines will wear a Montreal Expos cap and Ivan Rodriguez will wear a Rangers cap. Jeff Bagwell, of course, never played for a team other than the Houston Astros at the big league level.

Though Raines had some good seasons with the Chicago White Sox and though he helped provide a nice kick start to the Yankees dynasty in the mid-1990s, his best seasons, by far, took place while he was an Expo. It’s also the case that the bulk of his Hall of Fame push came from Expos fans. He was particularly boosted by Jonah Keri, who recently wrote a book detailing the history of the Expos. So, yeah, that’s easy.

Rodriguez played 13 of his 21 years with the Texas Rangers, including his MVP 1999 season. He did have some notable years elsewhere, particularly in Detroit where he remains a fan favorite, but it was always going to be the Rangers for him, one would think. Maybe a slight, slight chance that he’d do the blank cap thing, Greg Maddux-style, but smart money was on the Rangers.

With Bagwell, the only question is which Astros cap he’ll wear. There are a couple of applicable ones: the brick red star, which he wore to the World Series in 2005. There’s also the shooting star cap he wore during his best seasons and which Craig Biggio’s plaque displays. He was around for the classic “H” over the star look, but he was just a kid then, so I doubt he’d wear it.

Anyway, sorry to the Marlins fans who wished that Raines and Pudge would wear the fishy-F.