The St. Louis Cardinals have been in possession of a wild-card spot for the last three weeks.
It seems unlikely they'll still be in that position when the season concludes if they don't break out of their funk.
The scuffling Cardinals try to avoid being swept by the red-hot Padres for the first time in 17 years Wednesday at Petco Park.
St. Louis (75-67) has lost five of six and is 4-10 since Aug. 28, but still owns a one-game lead over Los Angeles for the NL's second-wild card spot. The Cardinals, who are averaging 2.0 runs while batting .203 in their last 10 defeats, continue their road trip Thursday with a crucial four-game series against the Dodgers, who've also lost five of six.
While St. Louis' struggles haven't caused it to lose that grip on a playoff spot - something it's occupied since Aug. 22 - they have allowed surging Milwaukee and Philadelphia to pull within four games.
"It's where we are at right now, and it's tough," Skip Schumaker said. "We are letting other teams in and it's going to make these next couple of weeks interesting."
The Padres (68-75) are probably too far back to make a serious run, sitting 7 1/2 games behind St. Louis, but they've been one of baseball's most dangerous teams lately, compiling an NL-best 16-5 record since Aug. 19.
The Padres have won 10 of 12 in San Diego, and things appear unlikely to get any easier for the Cardinals on Wednesday. They'll face new dad Clayton Richard (12-12, 3.78 ERA), who has won his last four starts at Petco and has a 0.38 ERA in his last three there.
The left-hander also didn't seem to have too much trouble in St. Louis on May 21, allowing two runs in 7 1-3 innings.
At Dodger Stadium last Wednesday, Richard was shaky, giving up three runs and 10 hits - all singles - in 4 2-3 innings of a 4-3 win. Two days later, Richard and his wife, Ashley, welcomed their first child, a son.
Opposing starter Kyle Lohse (14-2, 2.81) has actually had the best success of any St. Louis player against Richard, going 2 for 4.
Matt Holliday is 2 for 10, Yadier Molina 1 for 8 and Carlos Beltran hitless in three at-bats. Those three are a combined 4 for 24 (.167) with three walks in the first two games of the series for St. Louis, which hasn't been swept by the Padres since August 1995, in San Diego.
Logan Forsythe has carried the Padres' offense in the first two, going 4 for 10 with two doubles and three RBIs. He is also batting .400 with 10 RBIs and 10 runs in his last 13 games, raising his average 28 points to .288.
"We're playing good ball right now," he said. "Big hits in big situations. We're having fun."
Much of his success this season, however, has come against lefties, as he's batting .374 against southpaws compared to .239 against righties. This will be his first appearance against the righty Lohse, who has an eight-game winning streak over his last 15 starts.
Following a rain delay of 2 hours, 20 minutes against Milwaukee on Friday, Lohse gave up two runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4, 13-inning loss. He bounced back after being shelled for eight runs against Washington on Sept. 1 to allow two runs or fewer for the sixth time in seven starts.
He hasn't faced the Padres since yielding a run and five hits in eight innings of a 3-1 win at Petco on May 23, 2011.