Jameson Taillon battled through seven terrific innings, leading the Pirates to a 6-1 victory and completing a sweep of the Cubs Sunday.
Taillon struck out six and walked three. More importantly, he kept the Cubs at bay when things got tough. He whiffed Addison Russell with a curveball to end the first inning with two runners on base, then got Ben Zobrist to ground out to end the third with two men on. The Pirates’ offense, meanwhile, foundered against Jon Lester and catcher Willson Contreras, with the Cubs throwing out several of the few runners the Pirates had on the bases.
Taillon finally gave up a run in the seventh as his pitch count reached into the triple digits. Even that inning, though, was impressive on Taillon’s part. He gave up a single to Jason Heyward, and Contreras reached as Jordy Mercer struggled with what might have been a double-play ball. At the very least, Mercer could have gotten one out if he’d managed to hold on. Then Tommy La Stella doubled in a run as Adam Frazier took a jerky route in left and had the ball bounce off his glove as he dove. Taillon, though, remained sharp, and managed to get three outs that didn’t leave the infield against the very tough core of the Cubs’ lineup while limiting their damage to one run.
The Pirates’ offense finally took advantage in the top of the eighth as Lester left the game. They scored three runs off Koji Uehara as John Jaso, Frazier and Josh Bell all reached base to start the inning. Mercer singled in a run, and the Pirates took the lead as pinch-runner Alen Hanson scampered home on Andrew McCutchen’s fielder’s choice. David Freese then hit a fly ball to right, and Contreras missed Heyward’s throw home, allowing Mercer to score.
After Felipe Rivero breezed through the bottom of the inning, the Pirates added on against Justin Grimm in the ninth. Grimm hit Josh Harrison, then walked John Jaso (whose deserves credit for walking twice after entering the game as a pinch-hitter). Frazier then recorded his second extra-base hit, and third hit overall, on a homer to center.
The Pirates are now 6-6 after wiping out an extremely tough opponent on the road. Maybe there’s some life in this team after all.