Cardinals fall again as Padres complete sweep in San Diego

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Kyle Lohse tallied a season-high eight strikeouts over six strong innings, but the Redbirds’ offense continued its prolonged slump on Wednesday in San Diego as the Padres completed a three-game sweep of the defending World Series champions.

Matt Holliday finished 0-for-4 and is now batting just .204 over his past 14 games. Yadier Molina went 0-for-3 and laid down an ill-advised sacrifice bunt with a runner on second base and no outs in the ninth inning, damaging the threat of a late comeback. That bunt call apparently did not come from manager Mike Matheny.

The Cardinals have dropped 11 of their last 15 games and hold just a half-game lead over the Dodgers for the National League’s second Wild Card spot. The hard-charging Phillies are just three games back, and the Pirates are still alive with a mere two-game deficit. Milwaukee is 3 1/2 games out.

St. Louis visits Chavez Ravine next for a huge four-game set. We’ve entered must-see baseball territory.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.