The Arizona Diamondbacks have a lot of ground to make up in a month in both the NL West and the NL wild card races. It's a daunting task, but they can look at what the Cardinals and Rays did last year for inspiration.
"We all remember last year, in both leagues," right-hander Brad Ziegler said.
The D-backs (66-67) entered the final two games of a four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers 8 1/2 games behind division leader San Francisco after beating the Dodgers for the eighth straight time Friday night, 4-3 in 11 innings thanks to Jason Kubel's 27th home run. The D-backs trail St. Louis by 5 1/2 games for the second NL wild card.
If it sounds like a lot, consider that St. Louis was 10 games behind Atlanta in the NL wild card race with 29 games to play in 2011. The Cardinals won the wild card on the last day of the regular season and won the World Series three weeks later.
Tampa Bay won the AL wild card on the final day of the season after trailing Boston by nine games with 24 remaining. Comebacks such as those are memorable because they are so infrequent, like Colorado's charge in September 2007, but they do illustrate that it's possible.
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has held up the Cardinals as the standard for powering through the tough times this season, and former St. Louis manager Tony La Russa is right with him.
"The Diamondbacks are right. It is all about refusing to give in. Then you have no regrets. If you don't (give in), it's amazing what kind of things you can make happen," La Russa told FOXSportsArizona.com at a D-backs game last week.
"Look at what they have. They are all like him (Gibson). (Alan) Trammell. (Matt) Williams. They are all just gamers, self-competitors. Our stars were that way. Our extra guys were that way. Our pitchers were that way. We just competed.
"They can make it happen. We did."
The D-backs, who broke a six-game losing streak Thursday, believe they have not played their best baseball in defense of their 2011 NL West title, when they finished 94-68 and had a major league-high 48 comeback victories.
"In a lot of ways, we all feel within the locker room that we have very much underachieved," Ziegler said. "It's kind of amazing that we have played as poorly as we feel like we have and we're still in striking distance.
"We know this is a very streaky team. We can get on runs where it seems like for eight or 10 days no one can beat us. And then we'll have streaks the other way for three or four days.
"It's frustrating to kind of be up and down like that. At the same time, if we buckle down and play the kind of baseball we know we are capable of, we know we can put ourselves in a good position at the end."
The D-backs have nine games remaining against San Francisco and four more against the second-place Dodgers.