SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Zito eventually will reveal the full extent of the isolation and anguish he felt two years ago, when his team purposely left him behind.

There will be an evening when Zito 'fesses up and expresses how deeply it cut when the Giants excluded him from the 2010 postseason roster as they went on to win the only World Series title in San Francisco history.

Meanwhile, Zito yearns for another chance to take the mound in October, to pitch on the biggest of stages, for the highest of stakes.

He not only wants it but is doing his part to earn it.

In his latest showcase Thursday, a 9-2 win over the hapless Colorado Rockies, Zito was neither outstanding nor awful. His fastball, normally ordinary, was sub-ordinary. His curveball, which can be superb, simply was good. When he was replaced with two outs in the sixth inning, he had allowed 10 hits, including an RBI single to the pitcher.

Though Zito was not statistically impressive, he was nothing less than phenomenal mentally. And that's always been the left-hander's most important and accurate gauge.

"He's really locked in, has great focus when he goes out there," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Zito on Thursday pitched his way out of trouble as easily as he got into it. When he walked off the mound with his 13th win of the season, and third in a row, he received a standing ovation.

After five disappointing seasons -- deeply disappointing considering value -- Zito at last has gained a measure of trust from the fan base.

Moreover, he seems to have further gained the confidence of Bochy, who along with general manager Brian Sabean, is quietly considering pitching options for the playoffs.

Matt Cain is the unquestioned No. 1 starter. Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner, in any order, are Nos. 2 and 3. No. 4 has to be Zito.

As Ryan Vogelsong, so incredible for 41/2 months, suddenly has lost his edge, Zito has been gaining his. His ERA over his past nine starts is around 4 and, more significantly, San Francisco has won all nine games.

It's the heat of the playoffs chase, and Zito is responding with a level of performance that at least approaches what the Giants expected in 2007, when they signed him to that unforgettable albatross of a contract: $126 million over seven years.

"It's just nice to go out there and have fun and be loose in September," Zito said. "We don't know how to put up zeroes. We just go out there and throw baseballs and see what happens.''

Such simplicity has tended to escape Zito. Throughout his career he has been that guy who gets caught up in possibilities, allowing circumstances to dictate his actions. He would, at times, let his mind drift over the cliff of failure.

"Occasionally he'd get out of sync and walk two or three guys in an inning," Bochy conceded.

This season, however, has easily been Zito's best as a Giant. He's 13-8, his best record in San Francisco. Four times he's pitched at least seven shutout innings. He has done a solid job of keeping his team in games.

Is there a more desirable quality from a No. 4 starter? That's all Bochy or Sabean or anybody could ask. His teammates have noticed.

"His last four or five starts he's done a really nice job of not giving the same look more than once," said catcher Buster Posey, who spent Thursday observing from first base.

At 34, having made 391 major league starts, Zito is deep into his career cycle. His story thus far has been defined by raging success and utter failure, accompanied by constant emotional and mental gymnastics.

Recent years have been mostly unkind. Rock bottom was being forced to sit and watch his teammates come together without him to win the 2010 World Series.

Asked about his prospects for the 2012 postseason, Zito cagily parried the subject.

"I have Arizona, I think, next Wednesday night," he said.

The Diamondbacks may be at the front his Zito's mind. Is there any doubt the challenge of October baseball is firmly in the back?

Zito wants that chance. He's making his bid, his timing is good and, at this point, it's too strong to reasonably deny.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayarenewsgroup.com. Follow him at twitter.com/1montepoole.