So many adjectives have been used to describe Barry Zito over the past six seasons. Overpaid is a trendy one.

Here is another: deserving.

How else to describe a pitcher who has contributed to 11 consecutive happy handshake lines on his day to pitch? Who finally received run support and made it stand up for 15 victories? Who put aside the dented pride that came with being playoff-roster chaff three times in 2010, and then resurrected himself from a crisis of confidence at the end of spring training?

Zito had a killer instinct on the mound Tuesday night. It was just the right attitude the Giants needed to eliminate their archrivals. Zito was masterful into the seventh inning, left to loud boos – the universal sound of respect for a Giant at Dodger Stadium – and gave the club what it needed in a 4-3 victory.

Zito ends the season with a 4.15 ERA – identical to where he finished in 2010. But the destination looks so much sunnier this time.

"I felt pretty good in that season except for down the stretch," Zito said. "This year, it was different. I was able to keep my focus and make better pitches. I was able to stay under control coming down the way and keep my focus."

He will be on the playoff roster for the NLDS that begins Saturday at AT&T Park. That much manager Bruce Bochy has confirmed. But when would he pitch?

With a stern start in a playoff environment, Zito might have made a case to be the Giants' Game 3 starter when they hit the road, either to Washington or Cincinnati. He certainly has been a better, more dependable pitcher than Tim Lincecum this season.