DENVER -- It's anyone's guess if Barry Zito will ever live up to his $126 million contract. He said he used to think about it, but nowadays, he's pitched more like it.

Zito and the Giants will attempt to split their four-game series with the Rockies and reduce their National League Wild Card deficit to two games Monday.

"Playoffs is what it's all about and I had a lot of experience with that in Oakland," Zito said. "It's exciting to have an opportunity to be able to go to the postseason, and maybe that serves as a greater impetus to really do it for the team."

Since returning from the All-Star break, Zito has looked Cy Young-esque as he's posted a 3-2 record with a 2.36 ERA in seven starts. Zito said he's had decent stuff for most of the season but the difference has been in his aggressiveness.

"When you're nitpicking, you're worried about getting hit and you're worried about contact," Zito said. "Most times, you're going to pitch away from the strike zone. But if you just come after guys, usually, good things happen."

Zito's stats bear out his aggressiveness. This season, Zito is averaging 6.9 strikeouts while yielding just 3.4 walks per nine innings. Both stats are his best since 2004, when he went 11-11 with a 4.48 ERA in Oakland. And don't forget, Zito was an All-Star in 2006 and that year, he was averaging 6.1 K's per nine innings while allowing four free passes.

If there was a time for Zito to prove his worth, it couldn't have come at a better time than now as the Giants pursue their first playoff berth since 2003. Manager Bruce Bochy likes what he sees out of Zito.

"He's won a Cy Young, he can pitch," Bochy said. "Now we're seeing how good he is."

If Zito keeps it up against the Rockies on Monday, they, too, will see how good Zito has been lately.

Pitching matchup
SF: LHP Barry Zito (8-11, 4.26 ERA)
Zito's ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break is 2.36 -- better than rotation mates Tim Lincecum (2.65), Matt Cain (2.53) and Jonathan Sanchez (3.54). He's only 3-2 personally in this span, but the Giants have won five of his seven outings. Zito pitched one of his better games of the season on May 3 against Colorado, yielding two hits and walking one in seven innings as the Giants proceeded to win, 1-0, in 10 innings. Among Rockies hitters, Todd Helton (.313, 5-for-16) has had fair success against Zito. But Zito has thrived against Brad Hawpe (.071, 1-for-14), Chris Iannetta (.100, 1-for-10), Clint Barmes (.154, 2-for-13), Garrett Atkins (.182, 4-for-22), Ryan Spilborghs (.188, 3-for-16) and Troy Tulowitzki (.211, 4-for-19).

COL: RHP Jason Marquis (14-8, 3.58 ERA)
Marquis continued to show why he was named to the 2009 National League All-Star team in his last start Wednesday against Washington, as he moved into a tie for the most victories in the NL with six-plus strong innings in a 5-4 win. He allowed three runs on nine hits, walking one while striking out one. He also helped his own cause at the plate, going 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Having allowed one run in seven innings in his previous start, Marquis' re-emergence after nearly a month between wins bodes well for Colorado's continued quest for the playoffs.

Tidbits
Second baseman Freddy Sanchez missed his sixth straight game Sunday with a sore left shoulder and it's doubtful he will play Monday. Bochy said the longer the injury lingers, the possibility of Sanchez landing on the disabled list becomes greater. "It's coming into play as each day goes," Bochy said. "Again, that depends on the progress he makes." ... Edgar Renteria hit his first home run since April 24 on Sunday. ... Thirteen of the Giants' last 15 games have been decided by three runs or fewer. ... The Giants at D-backs game on Sept. 23 has been changed from 6:40 p.m. PT to 7:10 p.m. PT to accommodate ESPN's Wednesday Night Baseball.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• CSN-BA

On radio
• KNBR 680

Up next
• Tuesday: Giants (Matt Cain, 12-4, 2.43) vs. Diamondbacks (Dan Haren, 12-8, 2.74), 7:15 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: Giants (Jonathan Sanchez, 6-10, 4.30) vs. Diamondbacks (Doug Davis, 7-11, 3.77), 7:15 p.m. PT
• Thursday: Giants (Joe Martinez, 3-1, 5.73) vs. Diamondbacks (Yusmeiro Petit, 2-8, 6.06), 7:15 p.m. PT