And what has triggered the best 18-game run of the Padres' season?
The answers are: 1. Yes, if it continues. 2. Improved all-around play -- pitching, hitting and defense.
The 13-5 run has allowed the Padres to leap over two teams -- Arizona and Atlanta -- in the National League Wild Card berth standings. And since the run started on July 11, the Padres share the best record in the Major Leagues.
But the other team that is 13-5 is the San Francisco Giants. The Padres trail the Giants by 5 1/2 games, with the Cubs and Nationals ahead of San Diego in the NL Wild Card standings. The Giants are on pace to win 88 games. The leader of the NL Wild Card race, Pittsburgh, is on pace to win 95. To reach 89 wins, the Padres need to go 37-19 -- a .661 winning percentage -- over their final 56 games. Over the last 18 games, they have won 72 percent of the time.
The odds are long. But starting in Milwaukee, the Padres play five straight series against teams with a worse winning percentage than they own. Twelve of their last 18 series are against teams with losing records. And they have six games with the Giants, a head-to-head chance with a team they must overtake.
As for why the Padres are on a 13-5 run ...
• Padres starting pitchers have a 3.37 ERA over the last 18 games (40 earned runs in 106 2/3 innings), with 35 walks and 91 strikeouts. Rival hitters are batting .239 against Padres starting pitchers during the run.
• The Padres' offense has scored 77 runs (4.3 run per game) while hitting at a .251 (148-for-590) clip, with a .283 average with runners in scoring position. The Padres have 21 doubles, five triples and 21 homers over the last 18 games for a .410 slugging percentage.
From the scorecard
• Third baseman Yangervis Solarte match his career-high by stretching his hitting streak to nine games with two home runs Monday night. It is the second-longest streak by a Padres player this season, one behind the 10-game hitting streak Justin Upton had to open the season.
• Shortstop Alexi Amarista is 4-for-9 with a double, two triples, his third homer, five RBIs and two runs in his last two games after a 0-for-23 drought.
• Second baseman Jedd Gyorko is 11-for-24 over the last six games with a double and a homer for five RBIs and two runs to raise his average to .239.
• Right-handed start Tyson Ross evened his record at 8-8 Monday night and pulled even with James Shields for the Padres lead in wins. Ross is 5-1 over his last nine starts since June 20 with a 2.55 ERA.