Can collapsing Pirates avoid 20th straight losing season?

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Last year the Pirates were tied for the NL Central lead with a 53-47 record on July 25 and then went 19-43 down the stretch, finishing in fourth place at 72-90 for their 19th consecutive losing season.

This year Pittsburgh got off to an even better start with a 63-47 record through August 8, at which point there were lots of articles about how the Pirates wouldn’t be collapsing down the stretch again.

Unfortunately they’ve done just that, going 9-21 since then to fall from 2.5 games back in the NL Central to completely out of the division race at 12.0 games back. They’re still very much in the Wild Card mix, but unless the Pirates turn things around in a hurry they might have enough trouble simply remaining above .500.

Pittsburgh must finish no worse than 8-13 to avoid a 20th consecutive losing season. The good news is that their next two games are in Cincinnati and then their only remaining road series are against the Cubs, Mets, and Astros. The bad news is that their home schedule consists of series against the playoff-bound Reds and Braves along with a Brewers team that’s won 16 of 21.

Report: Hanley Ramirez “eyed” in federal and state investigation

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Former Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez is reportedly being “eyed” in an ongoing federal and state investigation, per Michele McPhee of ABC News. McPhee did not elaborate on the exact nature of the investigation itself, but provided a few more details during an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub on Friday:

“Obviously, I know absolutely nothing about sports or Hanley Ramirez’s stats, but what I do know is crime,” McPhee said. “And there has been some reports about a FaceTime phone call that was made between a man during a car stop. After that car stop, police recovered a significant amount of drugs. And during that car stop, the suspect claimed that one of the items found in the vehicle belonged to Hanley Ramirez and then FaceTimed [Ramirez] in front of police. And that car stop coordinated with the timing of his release from the Red Sox.”

McPhee further clarified that she thinks the suspect — who was reportedly transporting 435 grams of fentanyl and a “large amount” of crack cocaine — was tied to “a sweeping federal case involving a substantial ring that’s being operated out of Lawrence, Massachusetts.”

Ramirez, the Red Sox, and Major League Baseball have all denied knowledge of any current investigation. According to the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Red Sox VP of media relations Kevin Gregg insisted that Ramirez had been dropped from the team for baseball reasons alone and had not been made aware of an investigation at the time of his release.

“Hanley has no knowledge of any of the allegations contained in this media report and he is not aware of any investigation,” the infielder’s agent, Adam Katz, added Friday.

The 34-year-old Ramirez was designated for assignment on May 25 and became a free agent on June 1. Prior to his release, he batted .254/.313/.395 over 195 plate appearances, 302 shy of the 497-PA threshold he would have needed to cross in order to activate his vesting option for 2019. He’s still owed the remainder of his $22 million salary for 2018.