Joel Hanrahan survives shaky ninth as Pirates snap seven-game losing streak

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Joel Hanrahan’s ninth inning against the Cubs this afternoon was painful to watch. Very painful. But the Pirates’ seven-game losing streak is over.

Hanrahan entered the bottom of the ninth inning with a 7-4 lead, but quickly gave up a double to Joe Mather and walked Darwin Barney. He got the first out of the inning after Anthony Rizzo flew out to right field, but then Alfonso Soriano singled to left to score Mather. After Starlin Castro flew out to right-center for the second out of the frame, Hanrahan walked consecutive batters to force in a run. But just before you could say, “here we go again,” Hanrahan struck out Dave Sappelt swinging to eke out a 7-6 victory. Ugly wins are better than an eighth straight loss.

Wandy Rodriguez allowed three runs (one earned) over six innings in the victory while Andrew McCutchen went 2-for-3 with a homer and two walks. The National League MVP candidate has four home runs in his last six games and 28 on the year. Neil Walker went 0-for-5 with a strikeout in his first start since August 26.

The Pirates now sit at 73-71 on the year, 2 1/2 games back of the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot. They need nine wins in their final 18 games to ensure their first winning season since 1992.

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.