The Chicago Cubs' history of second-half surges, such as their 2017 post-All-Star break burst that enabled them to erase a 5½-game deficit to overtake the Milwaukee Brewers for the National League Central title, bolsters their confidence.
But they know how difficult it will be to do it again this season.
"We know how taxing that was," left-hander Mike Montgomery said. "If we have to do it again, both of us have to battle with it."
Montgomery will take the mound in Wednesday's series finale against the San Francisco Giants with the satisfaction that he has succeeded in a starting role so far. But he acknowledges the All-Star break will give him some much-needed time for recuperation.
The rest will be essential to helping the Cubs make a strong push, as they open the second half with 12 games in 11 days against St. Louis and Arizona while trying to overtake a Brewers team that has been in first place since June 21.
Milwaukee (55-37) enters play Wednesday with a 1½-game lead over the Cubs (52-37) in the NL Central.
The Cubs' confidence stems from an offense that has surged the last two weeks. During the first half of last season they collectively were coping with a malaise while trying to overcome a World Series "hangover."
"We're better than we were last year, for sure," Montgomery said. "So are (the Brewers). They have a little more confidence because of that (division race).
"But we still know we're the team to beat. That's how we feel. Everyone in here has a lot of confidence."
Montgomery has made the most of his long-awaited opportunity to start, as he replaced an injured Yu Darvish in the rotation and allowed one run or fewer in his first five starts. But Montgomery has become somewhat fatigued and looks to sharpen his pitches against the Giants after allowing 10 earned runs in his last three starts.
"That's the challenge," he said. "Hitters deal with the same thing. Sometimes they're locked in, and it's about trying to extend those streaks of being locked in. It's putting the work in, trying to stay consistent in the routine and making sure the body feels good.
"There's always room for improvement. That has been the case since my career started. That's what I was taught, and it's never truer than in the big leagues. You have to adapt your mix — maybe you hold the running game, maybe you're comfortable pitching out of the stretch more or out of the windup. A lot of it is a mental thing too. That's the fun part."
Montgomery, 29, has become more effective as a starter as he gains more experience. He's 8-7 with a 3.55 ERA in 27 career starts with the Cubs, including a 7-4 record and 2.68 ERA in his last 15 starts.
But he continues to monitor his work between starts to ensure his durability while the Cubs await the return of Darvish sometime during the final two months of the season.
"You learn to nurse certain fatigue and also stay sharp," Montgomery said. "With the All-Star break coming up, it resets you physically and mentally. It's needed.
"We've played a lot of good baseball, but we also need to step back because of the grind of the season."