SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Zito is playing his part in this World Series, all right.

After years of being labeled baseball's most overpaid pitcher, Zito took the ball Wednesday night and thoroughly outshined reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander to lead the San Francisco Giants to an 8-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers that sent the orange-crazed home fans into a Zito-fueled frenzy.

Three home runs from Pablo Sandoval only helped Zito's cause in Game 1.

The left-hander watched his teammates clinch the World Series title two years ago in Texas, never playing a part on the field that postseason. That was all the motivation he needed to revive his career in his early 30s.

Now, he has the Giants one win closer to another championship after a dazzling World Series debut. The left-hander has just about earned his $126 million contract in a sensational span of six days. A hefty chunk of it, anyway.

Last Friday night at Busch Stadium, Zito pitched a season-saving 5-0 victory against St. Louis and sent the Giants home trailing the defending champion Cardinals 3-2 – and they rallied again to reach a second World Series in three years.

For anyone who doubted Zito could deliver on the big October stage, while facing the daunting task of dueling with Verlander, he didn't flinch once. And when two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum came out of the bullpen to replace him in the sixth, Zito ran off to a roaring standing ovation and offered a quick tip of his cap before disappearing into the dugout.

During his 2012 transformation back to reliable starter, the 33-year-old Zito never wanted the focus to be on him or how he's accomplished this remarkable comeback but rather what he could add to make the Giants a winner and playoff contender again. And, possibly, win another World Series ring along the way.

Nobody is questioning Zito's talents now. His line of one run on six hits, three strikeouts and a walk in 5 2-3 innings was hardly spectacular – but it rarely is. Zito is doing just what manager Bruce Bochy asks of him: giving the Giants a chance to win.

Zito even added an RBI single in the fourth, following up his bunt base hit in Friday's win, as Giants starting pitchers drove in a run for the fourth straight game.

This is the ultimate win for Zito, years in the making. Not that he will say it quite that way. That's not how he operates.

When Zito was told he wasn't going to be on the postseason roster in 2010, in one of manager Bruce Bochy's toughest conversations with a player, the pitcher immediately went to work. He threw a bullpen session, he kept himself ready if needed – but never got the chance. It hurt to the core, even if he never said it.

He tried different deliveries and pitching motions, he added a cutter to his repertoire to give him four solid pitches to keep hitters guessing.

In front of a sellout crowd at AT&T Park on this night, he pitched first to chants of "Barry! Barry!" and later to hollers of "Zito! Zito!" Who could have seen this memorable World Series moment coming for Zito, only two years after all the boos, from every direction, in his home ballpark?

The Giants have won Zito's last 14 starts, and he hasn't lost since Aug. 2 against the Mets. Zito went 15-8 this season for his most victories since joining the Giants

"They score runs for him," general manager Brian Sabean said, "in very odd ways."

With the Giants, Zito has never been the dominant pitcher he had been across the bay as a member of Oakland's Big Three with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. Fans quickly gave up hope of Zito turning things around when he went 43-61 over his first five seasons with the Giants.

In a strange turn of roles, it was Lincecum – who pitched the Game 5 World Series clincher against the Rangers in 2010 – who came in for Zito. Lincecum credits the veteran lefty for showing him how to better handle the struggles, like this season when The Freak fell into a long funk.

Lincecum came through, too. He pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings of relief with five strikeouts.

Lincecum's outing marked the first time one Cy Young Award winner relieved another in the World Series since Baltimore's Jim Palmer came in for Mike Flanagan in 1983 against the Philadelphia Phillies, according to STATS LLC.

Zito and Lincecum certainly will share a hug or a handshake after this one.

"He's a lot tougher than people think and he's got a lot of pride and respect for the game," Sabean said of Zito. "He really wanted to be out there."

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  • Pablo Sandoval

    San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval hits a home run during the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

  • Barry Zito

    San Francisco Giants' Barry Zito tips is hat to the crowd after being removed from the game during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

  • Marco Scutaro

    San Francisco Giants' Marco Scutaro can't get a single hit by Detroit Tigers' Delmon Young during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • San Francisco Giants

    San Francisco Giants players hold up some Stand Up For Cancer cards during a break in Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

  • Tim Lincecum

    San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum throws during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

  • Gregor Blanco

    San Francisco Giants' Gregor Blanco makes a diving catch on a ball hit by Detroit Tigers' Prince Fielder during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

  • Miguel Cabrera

    Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera (24) and Jhonny Peralta (27) wait for teammates to bring them their gloves after the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Tim Lincecum

    San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum throws during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Pablo Sandoval

    San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval reacts to the crowd after hitting a home run during the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

  • Barry Zito

    San Francisco Giants' Barry Zito walks to the dugout after the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

  • Prince Fielder

    Detroit Tigers' Prince Fielder reacts after San Francisco Giants' Gregor Blanco made a diving catch on a ball he hit during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Detroit Tigers

    Detroit Tigers players players hold up some Stand Up For Cancer cards during a break in Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Detroit Tigers

    Detroit Tigers players players hold up some Stand Up For Cancer cards during a break in Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Pablo Sandoval

    San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval, left, gets a high-five from teammate Buster Posey after he hit a solo home run during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Pablo Sandoval

    San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval reacts at home after hitting his third home run of the game during the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Pablo Sandoval

    San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval hits a solo home run in the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series, against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Pablo Sandoval

    San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval reacts after hitting a home run during the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • San Francisco Giants

    San Francisco Giants players hold up some Stand Up For Cancer cards during a break in Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Justin Verlander

    Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander delivers a pitch during the fourth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

  • Pablo Sandoval

    San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval (48) is mobbed by teammates after hitting his third home run of the game during the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Prince Fielder

    Detroit Tigers' Prince Fielder it tagged out at second by San Francisco Giants' Marco Scutaro during the fourth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Brandon Belt

    San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt rounds third and heads for home on an RBI single hit by Barry Zito in the fourth inning, as Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera falls to the dirt, left, during Game 1 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Pablo Sandoval

    San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval reacts after hitting his third home run of the game during the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Miguel Cabrera

    Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera reacts on the bench during the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Justin Verlander

    Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander is seen in the dugout during the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Prince Fielder

    Detroit Tigers' Prince Fielder it tagged out at second by San Francisco Giants' Marco Scutaro during the fourth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • San Francisco Giants

    A fan watches from the mast of a boat during the fourth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

  • Angel Pagan

    San Francisco Giants' Angel Pagan, right, scores as Detroit Tigers' Alex Avila watches during the third inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Pablo Sandoval

    San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval (48) watches his solo home run against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning during Game 1 of baseball's World Series on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco.

  • Marco Scutaro

    San Francisco Giants' Marco Scutaro hits an RBI single off of Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander during the third inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Angel Pagan

    San Francisco Giants third base coach Gene Lamont gives Angel Pagan the signal to go for home after Marco Scutaro hit an RBI single in the third inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Justin Verlander

    Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander reacts after giving up an RBI single to San Francisco Giants' Marco Scutaro in the third inning, of Game 1 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Angel Pagan

    San Francisco Giants' Angel Pagan, right, reacts to the dugout in front of Detroit Tigers' Omar Infante after hitting a double during the third inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Angel Pagan

    San Francisco Giants' Angel Pagan is congratulated in the dugout after scoring during the seventh inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Barry Zito

    San Francisco Giants' Barry Zito, left, talks to catcher Buster Posey during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Jose Valverde

    Detroit Tigers' Jose Valverde throws during the seventh inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Barry Zito

    San Francisco Giants' Barry Zito leaves the game after pitching into the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • San Francisco Giants

    Umpires hold up some Stand Up For Cancer cards during a break in Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

  • Pablo Sandoval

    San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval hits a single during the seventh inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. Alex Avila is catching for the Tigers.

  • Joaquin Benoit

    Detroit Tigers' Joaquin Benoit throws during the seventh inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Pablo Sandoval

    San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval talks to Detroit Tigers' Jhonny Peralta (27) and Omar Infante (4) during a pitching change in the seventh inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)