Late September. Glorious sunshine. A baseball team closing in on the postseason. The crowd thundering its praise into the blue sky.

Barry Zito has been here before.

But not like this. Not at age 34. Not having gone through the dark times.

"Being on this side, going through some pretty big struggles, this is much more fulfilling," Zito said Thursday after winning his 13th game and helping the Giants trim their magic number from five to "this weekend."

And by "this side" Zito didn't mean the west side of the bay, but the north side of failure.