The Philadelphia Phillies haven't been at .500 since June, but their recent play has them believing that a playoff run isn't impossible.
Seeking their first five-game win streak in four months, the Phillies open a three-game home series against the Miami Marlins on Monday night.
Philadelphia has won 15 of 21 and is coming off a thee-game sweep of Colorado over the weekend as it begins a very favorable portion of its schedule.
The Phillies (69-71) swept a doubleheader from the Rockies on Sunday, winning the opener 3-2 and the nightcap 7-4.
With four consecutive wins - its fifth run of that length since a season-high six-game streak from May 13-18 - Philadelphia moved within six games of St. Louis for the second wild-card spot.
The Phillies, who haven't been .500 since they were 28-28 on June 4, play four of their final seven series against teams with losing records. The next seven games are against last-place teams Miami and Houston.
"You can kind of sense the crowd's excitement, coming down the stretch of games with a chance to win,'' John Mayberry said. ''I don't think anybody in this clubhouse has written ourselves off.''
Strong pitching has been at the forefront of the team's resurgence, with the staff posting a 2.82 ERA over the last 21 games. The bullpen has been even better during that stretch, compiling a 1.92 ERA.
Although the Marlins (63-78) are at the bottom of the NL East, they have won seven of 12 in the season series and are surging offensively.
Miami is averaging 6.4 runs and batting .299 in the last seven games, winning four.
The Marlins took two of three at NL-leading Washington over the weekend, winning 8-0 on Sunday behind Ricky Nolasco's four-hitter. Giancarlo Stanton homered in his third straight game, giving him 14 homers and 28 RBIs in 31 games since returning from a one-month absence.
"Our offense has been great the last three days, there's no doubt about it," manager Ozzie Guillen told the Marlins' official website.
Stanton has homered in four consecutive games once previously - Aug. 14-17, 2011 - and has two in 11 games against the Phillies this year.
Stanton is just 3 for 15 (.200) against scheduled starter Kyle Kendrick (8-10, 3.96 ERA), but he does have one homer.
Kendrick has been outstanding lately, going 4-1 with a 1.53 ERA in his last five starts. He had his four-start win streak snapped at Cincinnati on Tuesday, yielding a two-run homer and five other hits over six innings in a 2-1 loss.
The right-hander is 7-0 with a 2.28 ERA in his last nine appearances against the Marlins, winning both starts this season. He scattered five hits over seven innings in a 1-0 victory Aug. 14.
The Marlins will counter with Wade LeBlanc (2-3, 2.72), who is making his second consecutive start after rejoining the rotation.
LeBlanc has bounced between the bullpen and starting in 20 appearances this year. He allowed three runs and five hits over six innings of an 8-4 loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday, but did not receive a decision.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz returned to Philadelphia's lineup Sunday after missing over a month with a foot injury and went 2 for 2. He is 0 for 5 lifetime against LeBlanc.
- Miami Marlins