Taillon goes eight solid
Jameson Taillon smothered the Padres' offense on a thick, humid and swampy afternoon. His command was impressive throughout the day, as he buried fastballs and curveballs down in the zone at will early and then switched to an effective changeup during the middle innings.
"The changeup played today for him better," Clint Hurdle said. "They think it is a fastball out of the hand. And to get 94-95 mph fastball and then to take eight to nine miles per hour off that and it looks like the same pitch, it can be very effective."
The only serious threat came in the third, when a passed ball placed runners at second and third with two outs. Already ahead in the count, 0-2, against Wil Myers, Taillon induced a groundout three pitches later to end the inning.
With the Pirates leading 4-0 and Taillon having only thrown 88 pitches, Hurdle decided to let his starter bat in the bottom of the seventh. In the eighth, the right-hander gave up a one out single before getting the final two outs and walking off the field to a standing ovation.
Taillon pitched eight scoreless innings, allowed only three hits and struck out four. He threw an efficient 101 pitches and posted a 82 game score.
"The pitch efficiency is foremost for me," Hurdle said. "It is very, very attractive. Another day today, he averaged just over 12 pitches an inning. I love the rhythm and the pace he works, as well."
Taillon is now 60 innings into his major league career and sports an impressive 2.85 ERA. With two walks allowed today, his BB/9 sits at a very solid 1.20, and he's supporting the highest ground ball rate on the staff, 53.9 percent.
"I thought my first couple starts were good and I've had a couple rough ones in there," Taillon said of his first ten starts in the majors. "I thought hitters were adjusting to me and scouting reports were being formed. I think the biggest thing is to start adjusting start-to-start and figure out what hitters are doing to me. I think we're attacking the game plan pretty well."
Three Pirates provide the offense
The Pirates' offense was paced by Josh Harrison, Starling Marte and David Freese, who went a combined 6-for-12 and provided all four RBIs and three runs scored. After gathering nine hits and four runs through the first four innings, the bats fell silent and the last twelve hitters went down without incident.
After a miserable defensive game on Wednesday night, the Pirates played clean Thursday afternoon. In particular, Jordy Mercer was his usual steady self taking care of five grounders, including a nifty play on a hard hit ball to his left. Sean Rodriguez worked a double play in the second, and Andrew McCutchen grabbed a liner that looked like a duplicate of the ball that sailed over his head two nights ago.
"[Poor defensive] games show up and they bother you." Hurdle said. "Pain brings immediate attention to a specific area. This team takes it's defense very seriously. I think it beats on us a little bit when we don't play good defense. I think we take it personal. I know we do."
Francisco Cervelli was held out of the lineup and Elias Diaz was in Pittsburgh today, which led to some speculation before the game that the Pirates' catcher might be headed to the disabled list. But afterwards all indications were that Cervelli would return to the lineup sooner-than-later.
"We'll take it one day at a time," Hurdle said. "I anticipate him playing sometime soon."
Cervelli said that he occasionally feels a shot of pain when he swings, but he maintains that it is normal so soon after surgery. He admitted that he has had to adjust his swing and "do different things" to feel comfortable at the plate.
"It just got numb yesterday." Cervelli said. "Nobody came back [from a similar injury] as fast as I did. I feel good. I think the key is that I have to swing perfect all the time."
He added that he was given an MRI and "everything was good, thank God"
Both Chris Stewart and Tyler Glasnow will start rehab assignments with Double-A, Altoona, this weekend.
Gerrit Cole showed signs of his newly minted status as a veteran relative to some the young pitchers who have lockers near him these days. As the players were packing for the road trip, Cole gently reminded Chad Kuhl to bring his sweatshirt, as the team will be making a stop in usually chilly San Francisco. Kuhl promptly grabbed his hoodie and stuffed it into his already overflowing travel bag.