The Pirates scored ten runs in the first half of Wednesday evening’s traditional doubleheader, but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to match the Detroit Tigers’ mammoth 13-run output.
For the second straight outing, starter Jameson Taillon was bad. The right-hander allowed seven runs on ten hits in just 3.2 innings of work.
Combined with his disappointing outing on Thursday against the Phillies, where he was pulled in the second inning, Taillon has allowed 12 runs in his last 5.1 innings pitched. His ERA, which was comfortably under the 2.00 mark less than a week ago, has now ballooned to 4.91.
But the starter said that, despite his recent struggles, he feels strong on the mound.
“When your stuff isn’t good, it’s easy to say, ‘Well, my stuff wasn’t good. I just had a bad outing,’” Taillon said. “But that’s not really the reason [in this outing], which means that I have to dig a little bit deeper.”
While Taillon’s stuff may have been good, save for a curveball that he described as “loopy”, were a multitude of reasons why his outing wasn’t successful. Throughout his start, he struggled to finish players off when he had them off on the ropes. Seven of the ten hits Taillon allowed were on two-strike counts.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said that Taillon’s struggles came down to not executing his pitches the way that he normally does.
“He was able to get ahead early, but there was just too much lack of execution on pitches that ended up over the fat part of the plate,” Hurdle said.
Taillon also had difficultly with his glove-side command. When the righty is rolling, his fastball tails away from right-handed batters. Tonight, that tailing motion wasn’t evident and the ball frequently ended up in the middle of the zone.
And while the righty admittedly prefers to induce a little bit of contact to keep his pitch count down, it’s tough to succeed when players are able to wait for fastballs over the meat of the plate.
“When hitters set their sights in the middle of the zone and you throw it there, they’re going to capitalize on it,” Taillon said.
Bucs benefit from replay, but waste Cervelli’s surge
It’s a shame that Taillon and the Pirates bullpen, which allowed six runs of its own, could not perform well because the Buccos bats were hot for the first portion of the twin bill.
Every position player in the Pirates lineup picked up at least one hit at the team combined for ten runs on 14 hits. After a weekend of offensive futility in Philadelphia, the outburst was certainly welcome.
“Things can be contagious,” Hurdle said. “We need that bat thing to be contagious and not the thing off the mound.”
A major catalyst in Pittsburgh’s big game was catcher Francisco Cervelli, who went 3-for-4 and set a career high with six RBIs, five of which came with two outs.
But Cervelli’s biggest splash of the game, a three-run shot in the fifth inning, wouldn’t have happened if not for a prudent challenge earlier in the inning.
With runners on first and third, Josh Bell hit a grounder to Jose Iglesias at shortstop who tossed it to second baseman Niko Goodrum for what looked like the second out of the inning.
However, at the urging of video coordinator Kevin Roach and some astute observers in the dugout, Hurdle challenged the play at second. The video revealed that Goodrum removed his foot from the bag before receiving the ball.
In another time, Goodrum’s play would have likely fell under the “neighborhood rule,” which gives the second baseman some leniency in those situations with a runner bearing down on him while trying to turn a double play.
That rule has been officially removed from the game and, after video replay confirmed that Goodrum did not maintain contact with the bag, the runner was deemed safe.
Two batters later, Cervelli deposited a hanging breaking ball into the left field bleachers and put the Pirates into the driver’s seat with a 6-3 lead. (A lead that they would almost immediately relinquish.)
“That play never gets called a few years ago and you’d move on,” Hurdle said. “It was a good catch by Roach and somebody in the dugout screamed that it looked funny. It worked out well for us.”
Cervelli would later drive Corey Dickerson in with a single in the fifth inning and added two more RBIs with an eighth-inning double.