It was not a matter of “if”, but “when”. All good things must come to an end. And other cliches. Today, the Orioles finally lost a game when leading after seven innings for the first time in 110 games, per ESPN Stats & Info.
The Orioles led 6-4 over the Rays heading into the ninth. Closer Jim Johnson had his 35-game consecutive save streak end on Tuesday, when the Padres scored two runs in the top of the ninth to eke out a 3-2 victory. Johnson once again did not have his stuff today, as he would be shellacked for five runs on two walks and three hits (including a Kelly Johnson solo home run) as the Rays hung a six-spot in the ninth en route to a 10-6 win, ending the Orioles’ illustrious streak.
The loss is the fourth in a row and the sixth in eight games for the slumping O’s. With the Yankees winning again, they drop to 3.5 games out of first in the AL East.
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.