After losing Game 2 by a 6-2 count at Busch Stadium on Thursday, all the Padres can do is clutch to any positive thoughts they can muster.
"It's a tough situation to be in, but it's not over," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "You've got to be optimistic here. That's the only way to approach it."
Outfielder Brian Giles turns his focus to more recent history. The Padres won three in a row against the Cardinals in May -- all in St. Louis -- so it's not like it can't be done.
"I'll take my chances with our team," Giles said. "We've got to go out and get Saturday's game. We've won three in a row against this team. We've got to get that one big hit, and we can't give them extra outs. We're playing for our lives now. No more tomorrows. We've got to win three games, starting Saturday."
Otherwise, it's 1996 all over again.
Granted, this Padres team has just one player -- closer Trevor Hoffman -- from the '96 team that came to St. Louis and lost the first two games of the National League Division Series before heading home for Game 3.
That time, the Padres had a late lead before Brian Jordan delivered a two-run homer in the top of the ninth off Hoffman to send the Cardinals to the National League Championship Series with an NLDS sweep.
A similar scenario also worked once before for the Padres -- though that was even longer ago, back when Bochy was a backup catcher, not the manager.
The Padres also had a 2-0 deficit in 1984 to the Cubs in what was then a five-game format for the NL Championship Series. But the Padres came back to win the final three games, all in San Diego under the format back then, to advance to their first World Series.
It might be a stretch to think this is the same thing, especially since the Padres not only would have to win two in San Diego but win a Game 5 back in St. Louis.
After the first two games at Busch, the Cardinals are feeling confident, and with good reason.
"We have home-field advantage," leadoff hitter David Eckstein. "That's the job, and the one thing we've got to do is we've got to stay aggressive. The guys in the clubhouse are ready to play. We can't wait to get over there, and we'll be ready to play at 8 [PT] on Saturday night."
Former Cardinals pitcher Woody Williams (9-12, 4.85 ERA), in his second stint with the Padres, will try to play the stopper role against his old club, matched against fellow right-hander Matt Morris (14-10, 4.11 ERA).
"We know all about Woody," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He's going to be out there battling with everything he's got. You've got to win three to get to the next level, and we know the Padres and [the fans in] their ballpark expect a real tough ballgame."
The Cardinals sure aren't planning to sit back and wait to have the Red Sea of fans in their corner at Busch Stadium.
"We're not real fond of relaxing and being comfortable," La Russa said. "I heard David's comment about home-field advantage. We're going to their ballpark. Their fans are not pulling for the Cardinals. They're pulling for the Padres.
"We expect very difficult competition, and one of the things I like the best about our team is they're very solid between the ears. There's nobody who will take anything for granted and start celebrating."