CINCINNATI -- These days, it doesn't matter if the Pirates get swept at home by a rebuilding Chicago Cubs team or on the road against the division-leading Cincinnati Reds.
The Pirates are no longer chasing the Reds. They're chasing the wild card spot -- along with several other teams, some mainstays in the race and some who are new additions.
The Pirates' 2-1 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park Wednesday night was their sixth in a row, their longest losing streak of the season. They have now dropped 10 of 12 and now must go 10-10, playing .500 baseball down the stretch, to win 82 games and achieve a winning season. That will prove hard to do if they play as they have over their past 20 games, where they went 5-15.
The Pirates (72-70) remain in the wild card race regardless of their recent play because of the recent decline of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals lost their third game in row to the San Diego Padres Wednesday and have lost seven of their past 10 games. The Los Angeles Dodgers, another team in the wild card hunt, had lost five of their past six entering Wednesday's game.
The Philadelphia Phillies, who dealt Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton after a 37-50 first half of the season, have gone 26-14 since Aug. 1 to re-enter the wild card chase. They won their eighth game in the past 10 Wednesday to pull within three games of the second spot. The Milwaukee Brewers, who traded away Zack Greinke earlier this year, had won seven of their past 10 entering Wednesday's game and weren't far behind the Phillies.
The Pirates got a good start from A.J. Burnett, who has pitched well against the Reds all season. After allowing two runs in six innings and striking out eight Wednesday, he has a 2.36 ERA in four starts against the Reds this season.
Ryan Hanigan's leadoff single in the third led to the first Reds run. Brandon Phillips singled and a wild pitch sent the runners to second and third. Wilson Valdez's chopper scored Hanigan.
The Pirates have thrown a wild pitch in each game of the series against the Reds.
Three consecutive Pirates singles gave tied the game in the fourth. Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones singled to put men on first and third for Gaby Sanchez, who missed a home run by a few feet before singling to score McCutchen.
Brock Holt saved a run in the fifth. Burnett walked Homer Bailey with one out. He struck out Phillips before Valdez singled to right. The ball hit off the heel of Garrett Jones' glove and the error allowed Bailey to reach third. Joey Votto hit a grounder between first and second, but Holt dived to stop it and throw Votto out to end the inning.
The Pirates wasted a one-out triple from Alex Presley in the sixth. Presley took off for home with Clint Barmes batting on a suicide squeeze attempt, but Bailey pitched out to Ryan Hanigan and Barmes couldn't lay down a bunt. Hanigan made it back across the plate to tag Presley for the second out of the inning.
The Reds took the lead after a Ryan Ludwick double to lead off the sixth. Ludwick took third on a fly ball and scored on Scott Rolen's fly to left field.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published September 13, 2012 2:30 AM