Phillies lose three out of four to woeful Astros

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So much for the Phillies’ big surge. The Philadelphia bullpen blew a 4-3 lead Sunday in a 7-6 loss to Astros, giving Houston a rare series win.

Antonio Bastardo took the loss in relief of Roy Halladay, though the blame more squarely rests on the broad shoulders of rookie Phillippe Aumont. The Astros scored four times in the seventh with a rally that started on a Michael Martinez error. Bastardo left with two on, one out and the 4-3 lead still intact. Aumont followed by giving up a walk, a two-run double and a two-run single to the only three hitters he faced, making it 7-4 Houston.

The Phillies came back with two runs on a Domonic Brown double in the top of the eighth, but it wasn’t enough.

Setup relief was the Phillies’ Achilles heel early this season, but it’s been much better in the second half, as the team has largely been successful in maintaining leads in front of Jonathan Papelbon. Today’s misstep was Aumont’s second in a row. He allowed just one run over 8 1/3 innings in his first nine appearances for the Phillies, but he’s given up four runs in the last two. He took the loss in Thursday’s series opener.

Back under .500 at 73-74, the Phillies again look like extreme long shots for the second wild card spot. While they’ll be “only” four games back of either the Cards or Dodgers at the end of the day, they’re going to have four teams ahead of them in the standings.

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.