Pittsburgh Pirates Are Still in the Wild Card Hunt Thanks to the Padres

Paul Francis Sullivan@@sullybaseballChief Writer ISeptember 13, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 8:  James McDonald #53 and Rod Barajas #26 of the Pittsburgh Pirates talk against the Chicago Cubs during the game on September 8, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There are a lot of things that are unbelievable regarding the Pittsburgh Pirates and the 2012 National League Wild Card chase. Now, which one is the hardest one to grasp?

The Pirates are a mere two games over .500 after being 16 games over as recently as August 8th.

They are 9-23 since that date.

They were swept at home by the lowly Cubs.

They have lost their last five games by two runs or less.

The other Pennsylvania team, the Philadelphia Phillies, is on the verge of passing them in the standings.

Those are all incredible. The one that is the most unbelievable, however, is that they are still in the race. In fact, on this day, September 13th, as the team is traveling to Chicago, they can pull within striking distance of a wild-card spot.

Despite the suddenly dormant offense that has not scored more than three runs in each other their last six games and the brain cramps by manager Clint Hurdle, the Pirates woke up this morning a mere two-and-a-half games out of the wild card. And if the Los Angeles Dodgers can beat the reeling world champion Cardinals, then the Pirates will be just two games out.

And for that reason, the Pirates' organization should send a big fruit basket to the San Diego Padres' organization.

In their six-game losing streak, the Pirates lost exactly one game in the standings. The surging Milwaukee Brewers took out the Cardinals two out of three times. Then the Cardinals went to Petco in San Diego and did a great Pirates impersonation and got swept themselves.

The Pirates are treading water, to be sure. They have 20 games remaining and have been playing a horrific brand of baseball.

But they have a day off tonight. They can regroup and head into Wrigley and take on the second-worst team in baseball for four games. Winning that series and beating the Astros and Mets in upcoming matchups could keep Pittsburgh right in the hunt until the last week.

If baseball is a game of streaks, then it will only take a modest reversal of the Pirates' fortune to make this horrible losing streak a distant memory.

And they can thank the Padres for that.