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.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.