Jameson Taillon showed signs of recovering from a rough, six-week stretch and Jordan Luplow had a big day as the Pirates blanked the Reds, 5-0.
Taillon got off to a tough start, allowing a leadoff double to Billy Hamilton and immediately wild pitching him to third. He pitched out of it, though, fanning Zack Cozart, getting Joey Votto — who literally has gone entire seasons without popping up — to pop up, and fanning Adam Duvall. After a leadoff single in the second, Taillon retired 13 straight hitters.
The Pirates, however, were overmatched against rookie Tyler Mahle, who was making his second career start as well as his second against them. Through the first four innings, they got only one runner to second. That came when Luplow got an infield single for his first major league hit, then went to second on a wild pitch.
In the fifth, the Pirates loaded the bases when Taillon singled with two down, Josh Harrison got plunked for the 23rd time, and Starling Marte beat out an infield hit. Andrew McCutchen, though, extended his latest dismal slump by flying out to shallow left. McCutchen finished 0-5 and stranded seven runners.
Sean Rodriguez replaced Harrison for the top of the sixth. Harrison was hit on the hand and was slated to see a hand specialist, which may indicate the injury is serious.
Taillon ran into more trouble in the sixth, his final inning, but again was equal to the task. A one-out single by the immortal Hamilton, an intentional walk to Votto and three steals (not entirely in that order) led to runners on second and third with two out. Taillon struck out Adam Duvall on three pitches, though, to end the threat. The walk to Votto was Taillon’s only one of the game, which is a positive sign after the control problems he’s had in recent starts. He allowed only three hits in all and struck out four.
Mahle departed after six largely unchallenging innings and the Pirates finally broke through in the seventh against the Reds’ weak bullpen. They didn’t do it, though, without help. With John Jaso aboard via a pinch-hit walk, Marte got his third hit, a two-out bloop single to center. Right fielder Phillip Ervin ended up fielding the ball and, with Jaso already stopped at third, hurried a throw toward home and threw the ball away. That allowed Jaso to score the game’s first run.
With Juan Nicasio and his salary having been rescued by the Phillies, Daniel Hudson made his not-at-all-long-awaited return to the eighth inning role. Hudson escaped with only a mild adventure. With one out, he walked Hamilton, whose career .332 slugging average seemingly has always terrified Pirates’ pitchers. Fortunately, Zack Cozart bailed Hudson out of a 3-1 count, lining out to center, where McCutchen made a sliding grab. Hudson then retired the legitimately terrifying Votto on a fly ball.
In the bottom of the eighth, Luplow got another couple of firsts. After David Freese and Elias Diaz singled, Luplow blasted the first pitch he saw, a 97-mph fastball, over the notch in left-center for his first big league longball and RBI. The Pirates added another run in the inning on a forceout to make it 5-0. Felipe Rivero finished up with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Tomorrow the Pirates go for their second straight series win over the Reds, with Trevor Williams facing Sal Romano.