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Cardinals stage ninth-inning rally to beat Pirates

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The Pirates had a chance to make things interesting in the NL Central with their series against the first-place Cardinals this week, but now it’s increasingly likely that they are looking at a Wild Card game matchup against Jake Arrieta and the Cubs.

On the strength of a ninth-inning rally, the Cardinals beat the Pirates 3-0 tonight at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The game remained scoreless until the Cardinals took advantage of some leaky defense on the part of the Pirates. Matt Carpenter reached on a out-out single against Mark Melancon before Jon Jay singled up the middle. Neither Gregory Polanco nor Andrew McCutchen could field the ball cleanly, so Carpenter came all the way around to score on the play. Mark Reynolds then followed with a two-run homer to provide some insurance.

Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal had a monster meltdown on Sunday and it looked like we were in for some more drama after he walked Andrew McCutchen and gave up a single to Starling Marte to begin the bottom of the ninth. However, Rosenthal struck out Neil Walker swinging after a long at-bat before getting Francisco Cervelli to fly out and Aramis Ramirez to line out to first base to end it. Rosenthal now has a franchise record 48 saves. Jason Isringhausen (2004) and Lee Smith (1991) previously shared the record.

It was a frustrating night for the Pirates. J.A. Happ was excellent yet again, allowing just one hit over six scoreless innings. Pittsburgh’s offense had plenty of chances against Lance Lynn and the St. Louis bullpen, but they failed to capitalize, ultimately standing 16 base runners.

The Pirates are now four games back of the Cardinals with five games remaining. The Cardinals’ magic number is down to two to clinch the division, so they could wrap things up with another win tomorrow.

Report: Giants showed some interest in Phillies’ Maikel Franco at Winter Meetings

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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that the Giants were “sniffing around” on Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco at the recently completed Winter Meetings.

Franco, 25, would be a nice buy-low candidate for the Giants, who don’t have a reliable third baseman yet. Currently, Pablo Sandoval would get the lion’s share of starts at the hot corner. Franco was a consensus top-100 prospect going into the 2014 and ’15 seasons, but hasn’t lived up to the hype over the last two seasons. In 2017, he hit .230/.281/.409 with 24 home runs and 76 RBI in 623 plate appearances.

Moving Franco wouldn’t necessarily solve any problems for the Phillies. After signing first baseman Carlos Santana, Rhys Hoskins is expected to play in the outfield full-time. As a result, the Phillies have too many outfielders with Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, and Aaron Altherr. Technically, the Phillies could move Santana to third base as he has experience there, but he hasn’t played the hot corner since 2014.

Franco is arbitration eligible over the next four seasons, which might be the most attractive thing about him to other teams.