(G.M. Wade, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice)

We’ve seen a few unexpected developments catapult teams into contention this year — Ozzie G. calling out his White Sox, the Mets kicking Willie Randolph to the curb, LA’s deadline acquisition of Manny Ramirez — but when trying to pinpoint the reasons behind Houston’s unlikely turnaround, might the Astros consider giving Shawn Chacon a full playoff share?  Houston’s only 4 games out of the Wild Card spot after Tuesday’s 9-3 win over Pittsburgh, and the Chronicle’s Richard Justice considers the Astros improbable revival (while patting himself on the back at the same time).

The Astros have come a long way since that night in Baltimore when they packed their bags after being swept by the Orioles. They’d lost eight in a row and were 33-40 when they flew to Tampa for a weekend series with the Rays.

About all that happened that weekend was that Shawn Chacon got thrown off the team. He got in a fight with GM Ed Wade the following Monday. Maybe the Florida sunshine did something to the boys because they’re 45-27 since.

What happened? Lots of things. Wade acquired Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins. Chris Sampson solidified the bullpen. Carlos Lee got hurt, but Ty Wigginton got hot. Ty Wigginton got hurt and Darin Erstad got hot. Brandon Backe got hurt and Alberto Arias stepped in.

Mark Saccomanno hit the first big league pitch he ever saw out of the park. In other words, the Astros did the kinds of things all good teams do. They found heros in the most unlikely places.

Their chances are still slim, but with 17 games left, they’re back in the conversation. If I write them off at 33-40 next season, someone should slap some sense into me.

I don’t know about you, but I loved the Randy Wolf trade from day one. Sure, some of you thought it was silly. You wondered why Wade took on an additional $3.5 million in payroll in a lost season.

That’s why you should always listen to me on these matters. I knew these kids had a push left in them. I knew the season wasn’t lost. You’d think I’d get tired of being right all the time, but I don’t. Frankly, I’m used to it.

Indeed, Justice is nothing short of amazing. Who else could compose 500+ words on the matter of Houston’s comeback and never once type the name “Cecil Cooper”?