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.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.