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McCutchen, Taillon key 3-0 win over Phillies

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Jameson Taillon threw five shutout innings and Andrew McCutchen played a hand in all of the Pirates’ runs as they ended their three-game losing streak with a 3-0 win over the Phillies.

Against baseball’s second-weakest offense, Taillon didn’t follow his usual script. He hasn’t generally been dominating this year, although he did lead the current rotation in K/9 at 7.8 coming into the game. In this one, he fanned a career-high nine in just five innings. The strikeouts had a cost, though, as he threw 102 pitches in those five innings.

Taillon had to deal with runners in scoring position in every inning, but often with two outs. His toughest challenge came in the fourth, when an error by Josh Harrison and a single put runners on the corners with one out. Taillon stopped that rally by striking out the opposing battery.

The Pirates’ moribund offense could do little with mediocre Phillies’ starter Mark Leiter. Through five innings, their only run off him came in the third when a walk to Adam Frazier, Harrison’s MLB-leading 19th hit batsman and a single by McCutchen loaded the bases with one out. John Jaso flied to shallow center and Frazier scored on an off-target throw, although Harrison turned it into a double play by getting cut down trying to move up on the throw.

Leading off the sixth, McCutchen jumped on a belt-high, 2-0 fastball, drilling it to left for his 15th HR. Leiter departed after fanning Jaso and plunking David Freese. At that point, the Pirates had managed only four hits. They had no more luck against reliever Luis Garcia, but McCutchen struck again in the eighth against Ricardo Pinto, ripping a high, 97-mph fastball to almost the same spot in left for his 16th bomb. That left McCutchen with three of the five hits the Pirates collected in the game.

Taillon’s departure and the ineptitude of all their hitters not named McCutchen left the Pirates at the mercy of the toxic waste dump they call a bullpen. This time, though, they got away with it. Daniel Hudson made quick work of the Phillies in the sixth, with a couple of whiffs. Tony Watson was a different matter. He put himself in trouble in the seventh by walking the #8 hitter on five pitches. An infield hit and a sacrifice that nearly went for a hit followed. (The sacrifice was a near-perfect bunt that required a nice play by Watson and a replay challenge by the Pirates just to get the out at first.) Another five-pitch walk loaded the bases and left Watson with just four strikes thrown in 13 pitches, most of them not close. That brought on Juan Nicasio, who got Aaron Altherr, easily the Phillies’ best hitter, to ground into an easy 6-4-3 double play.

A rain delay set in after Nicasio had thrown one pitch in the eighth, but it didn’t last long enough to force Nicasio’s departure. Once play resumed, he got the side in order. Felipe Rivero actually had a bit of trouble in the ninth, putting two on with one out. He responded with the devastating stuff that almost nobody in the game can match, getting Daniel Nava and Freddy Galvis on six pitches. They were divided between Rivero’s nasty change and serious heat, the last two pitches registering over 100 mph.