Five weeks after he was diagnosed with freaking cancer, Texas-tough right-hander Jameson Taillon took the mound on Monday night and threw five scoreless innings against the best team in the National League as the Pittsburgh Pirates topped the Colorado Rockies 7-2 at PNC Park.
Taillon struck out five, including the first two batters he faced, and pretty much looked like Jameson Taillon out there, which is remarkable because, again, freaking cancer.
If one were to pick nits, Taillon’s command wasn’t quite at the level that it usually is. Taillon only threw 49 of his 82 pitches (60 percent) for strikes and, including his two walks, fell into six three-ball counts. Both statistics are atypical of Taillon’s usual effectiveness.
But when he was faced with in-game adversity, he was able to stifle it just as effectively as he had been able to stifle his off-the-field issues. The Rockies had two runners on in each of the third, fourth, and fifth innings and were unable to even advance a runner to third base.
Taillon’s most impressive escape was in the fourth. Nolan Arenado led off with a single and Mark Reynolds followed with a walk, Taillon fell 2-0 to Ian Desmond before Ray Searage came out to have a chat with his starter. Whatever magic Searage was able to spin worked as Taillon rebounded immediately. Popout. Strikeout. Popout. Inning over.
With Taillon holding his own on the mound, the Pirates offense provided him some early cushion against the Rockies’ crafty lefty Kyle Freeland.
Josh Harrison struck first with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning. The dinger extended Harrison’s hitting streak to ten games.
Harrison followed that performance with an impressive reaction play in the bottom of the third. When Trevor Story’s throw drew first baseman Reynolds off the bag, Harrison alertly dove under Reynolds’ tag.
The evasive maneuver paid off moments later when David Freese drove Harrison in with an opposite field double. Then, with runners on first and third, Andrew McCutchen
grounded into a double play cranked an RBI single to left field that gave the Pirates a 4-0 lead.
Desmond’s RBI double allowed the Rockies to crack the scoreboard in the sixth inning, but the Pirates responded in short order when Gregory Polanco gave the Pirates a 5-1 lead with a long single to left center field.
Pittsburgh scored two more runs during a clunky bottom of the seventh inning that featured an RBI walk by John Jaso and a run-scoring sac fly by leadoff hitter Max Moroff.
Overall, the Pirates pumped the Rockies pitchers for 11 hits. Every Pirates position player other than Moroff logged a hit, and even he reached base twice and scored two runs.
But obviously the story is Taillon, the injury-plagued pitcher who took another potentially soul-crushing malady in stride and continued to perform at a major league level.