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Taillon, Mercer lead Pirates to 6-3 win over Brewers in opener

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Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Jameson Taillon fanned a career-high ten batters and Jordy Mercer drove in four runs with three singles as the Pirates opened their five-game series against Milwaukee with a 6-3 win.

Taillon didn’t exactly follow the Pirates’ preferred formula. He mixed his pitches thoroughly right from the first hitter, getting into a number of three-ball counts but managing to work out of most of them, walking only two. Meanwhile, he kept the Brewers off-balance enough to rack up the Ks. By my count, he got three on four-seamers, six on curves and one on a slider. Gerrit Cole would be proud.

The toughest situation Taillon faced came in the fifth, when a walk and a single to start the inning put runners on the corners. Taillon responded by fanning the side. (Yeah, okay, the first was his mound opponent, but the others were Marcus Thames and Lorenzo Cain.) In the sixth, he got past a leadoff walk, then came out for a pinch hitter, having thrown 96 pitches, 62 for strikes. The one flaw came when Jesus Aguilar launched a solo home run in the fourth.

The Pirates meanwhile couldn’t do a great deal with lefty Wade Miley, despite the fact that Miley wasn’t throwing many strikes. He walked five through five innings, but the Pirates only dented him when Jordy Mercer hit two-out, RBI singles — one a grounder through the hole into left and the other a liner that tipped off the shortstop’s glove — in the second and fourth.

In the sixth, the Pirates added a much bigger cushion against reliever Adrian Houser. Mercer again had the big hit, a two-run single, this time with no outs. They got a third run later in the inning on an RBI hit by Starling Marte. A double by Josh Harrison drove in Josh Bell to make it 6-1 in the seventh. The run was Bell’s third of the day, all after he’d drawn walks.

The lead gave the Pirates a chance to provide their best relievers . . . well, some of them . . . with a day off. Richard Rodriguez pitched a scoreless seventh, but Clint Hurdle went with Tyler Glasnow in the eighth and Michael Feliz in the ninth. (Glasnow couldn’t pitch both innings due to the rule that relievers can only pitch one inning at a time when their team is ahead in the late innings.) Glasnow allowed a couple of runners, but got two strikeouts and stranded them. In the ninth, though, two hits, a Mercer error and a walk brought Felipe Vázquez into the game with one out and the score now 6-2. Another hit made it 6-3 and brought up Aguilar, who cut short the drama by hitting into an around-the-horn double play on Vázquez’ first pitch.

Tomorrow, Nick Kingham faces the very tough Junior Guerra in game two.