Pirates drop 82nd game, ensure 20th straight sub-.500 season

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Joel Hanrahan has been a rock in the closer’s role these last two seasons, but even he let the Pirates down today as the team completed its collapse.

The Reds scored twice in the bottom of the ninth Sunday to beat the Pirates 4-3, dropping Pittsburgh to 77-82 and locking up a 20th consecutive season below .500.

The Pirates peaked at 16 games over .500 on Aug. 6, but they’re now five games under. They’re 5-18 in their last 23 games.

Hanrahan was 36-for-39 saving games this year before giving up a game-tying homer to ex-Pirate Xavier Paul. He took his second loss after Zack Cozart doubled in pinch-runner Denis Phipps to give the Reds the lead.

The homer was Paul’s fifth in 461 major league at-bats. He hit two in 232 at-bats for Pittsburgh last year.

Cincinnati’s win pushed the team back into a tie with the Nationals for the best record in the National League at 96-63.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.