It is not too late to make a run. The Colorado Rockies should know that as well as any professional sports team.
After a tough 1-9 stretch on the road, the Rockies swept the Pirates in a three-game series over the weekend and came out swinging against the Padres on Monday, cruising to a 14-2 win for their fourth straight victory.
They are 56-64 and 13 games back of the National League West-leading Dodgers.
On the same date in 2007, the Rockies were 61-56 and five games back of the first-place D-backs. Then they won 21 of 22 on their way to an NL pennant and World Series appearance.
As the Rockies prepare to host the Padres on Tuesday, there is little reason to give up.
"When you're on the outside looking in and talking about proving that we've not given up, I see that as a false-hustle award," said reliever Rex Brothers, who has been electric with 10 saves in 11 chances. "There's a true desire and a fire in every guy's belly in this clubhouse to not only prove that we are contenders in this division, but we belong at the top, no matter what the numbers say in the standings."
Manager Walt Weiss often talks about focus. His team will not have much room for error in this final stretch.
"I think we all need to be reeled in at certain times, myself included," he said. "So every once in a while we need that checkup. When you play for six months, virtually every day, it's different than any other sport. Unless you've done it, it's hard for you to understand."
While the Padres are in similar standing in the division, they appear to be trending in the opposite direction. Without Everth Cabrera (suspension) and Carlos Quentin (injury) in the lineup, San Diego mustered 11 total runs over its last six games, in which the team went 1-5.
"Whether guys are trying too hard, whether guys are squeezing the bat a little bit, I'm not sure," manager Bud Black said. "Obviously, we have to do a better job of that moving forward with this group. A lot of these guys are going to be with us going into next year. That's an area where some of our guys with lesser service time or some of our guys coming into their own have to improve.
"Hitting with runners in scoring position, that tough at-bat with two outs, really fighting to put the ball in play, having good swings, good at-bats."
Jeff Manship takes the mound for the Rockies, making his second Major League start of the season. The 28-year-old right-hander threw five innings of two-run ball against the Mets last week in his first start.
"He handled himself really well in New York, and yeah, he throws like that, I don't think he'll be going anywhere," Weiss said, discussing Manship's future with the team.
Left-hander Eric Stults has already quieted the Rockies' bats twice. In two starts, Stults has thrown 16 innings and allowed two earned runs on 11 hits.
Rockies: Arenado better than numbers suggest
The expectations on rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado might have been a little unfair after the former second-round Draft pick hit .364 in Triple-A Colorado Springs earlier this season. And while holding a .265 average, he has most likely been more impressive with his demeanor, defense and ability to hit in the clutch.
He is currently riding a nine-game hitting streak, and he is two days removed from having the winning hit in a 3-2 win over the Pirates. Weiss has taken notice of Arenado's maturity.
"In general, when you get those high-pressure at-bats, there's going to be some emotion attached to it," Weiss said. "There's going to be some adrenaline; there's going to be maybe some fear.
"I think the guys that perform well in those situations consistently -- guys that are tagged as clutch players -- those guys can harness those emotions and that adrenaline and use it to focus, as opposed to the adrenaline getting them away from their focus. When you talk about clutch players, that's what you're able to do."
Padres: Hundley on parent duty
Nick Hundley may or may not be present Tuesday, as has been the case the last three days.
The catcher is waiting for his wife, Amy, to give birth to the couple's first child. She was due Sunday.
"You're anxious about getting home if you need to," Hundley said. "But I think that it's harder on her ... not knowing. This is such an unbelievable thing; you're bringing someone into this world, and you want to do it as a family."
If Hundley has to leave, the Padres will add a catcher. Rene Rivera is the only other catcher on the 25-man roster.
• Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt is scheduled to make a rehab appearance with Triple-A Colorado Springs on Thursday as he returns from an emergency appendectomy.
• Will Venable has hit safely in nine straight games for the Padres.