Barry Zito swore he was in the moment professionally the entire time Friday night. Through every inning he pitched. Through all the Cardinal batters he struck out with his mystically slow 84 mph fastball. Through the entire Giants' victory that was so desperately needed.

Never once, Zito said, did he ponder how far he had come over the past few years.

Didn't have to, really. Because everyone else was.

"You know, it's hard to kind of think about all those things," Zito said at evening's end. "We're still fighting to win a game and stuff. I think the time to reflect on it might happen after everything is said and done and I'm back home in the offseason."

Which, thanks to him, has been postponed a little while longer.

You could just feel the communal brain waves as the Giants saved their playoff hopes with a 5-0 decision that sent the National League Championship Series back to San Francisco for Game 6 on Sunday. Everybody who was watching Zito throw nearly eight shutout innings was thinking simultaneously about the exact same stuff.

They were thinking about 2010, when Zito had not even been good enough to make the Giants' postseason roster for the team's World Series run.

Or they were thinking about the 2007 season, after Zito had signed a seven-year contract for $126 million and then laid an egg larger than the Coca-Cola bottle above left field at AT&T Park. Then he continued to lay

further eggs, drawing further scorn through five losing seasons.

During those years, it even reached the point where Zito felt compelled to abandon social media. In Northern California, that's sort of like cutting out your own tongue.