Seemingly compounding the challenge is that the Cardinals aren't getting a day off over the season's final 31 games.
Impossible to catch up? No. Improbable but possible? The Cardinals believe yes.
"It's good to be part of the excitement that you're still alive," manager Tony La Russa said before Monday afternoon's makeup game against the Marlins at Sun Life Stadium.
"But you understand that you've got to get hot. Playing against the Cubs [and losing three straight] is not hot. Winning three of four from the Padres is hot."
La Russa recalled that the Cardinals were nine games out of the division lead in August 2006, the year they won the World Series. And he saw how the Mets had a major collapse the following September, with the Phillies capitalizing.
"Fourteen games is a lot of games," La Russa said. "Let's see what we do with them."
One good sign: the Cardinals have gone through 17 games of their 31-game gauntlet, and La Russa said any lack of endurance hasn't been a factor so far.
"I've heard no complaints, and we're not a tired ballclub," he said.
He knows he doesn't have to worry about endurance with a lot of his players, most notably catcher Yadier Molina, still playing despite a balky knee.
"At the position I play, something is always going to hurt," Molina said. "You've got to be tough enough to play through it. We want to finish strong."
La Russa thought of one potentially good thing about no days off the rest of the way.
"If you get hot, no distractions," he said.