The Pittsburgh Pirates received a gem from Jameson Taillon in his season debut, but the offense couldn't provide him any support.
The Pittsburgh Pirates weren’t expected to have the same pop in their lineup without Jung-Ho Kang this season. After being denied a visa to come to America, Kang and his 21 home runs from a year ago were left in Korea. With only Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco topping 20 home runs last year along with Kang, the Pirates entered 2017 with a big hole in the middle of their lineup. Game two of their opening series against the Boston Red Sox highlighted that in a very ugly way.
Pittsburgh dropped the game 3-0 after failing to score after playing 12 innings. What’s worse, is that they only mustered five hits, and never saw a player reach second base. Give praise to the Red Sox pitching staff who collectively pitched a beautiful game, but that doesn’t let the Pirates off the hook. Even without Kang, they still have talent in their lineup.
The 3-4-5 hitters of McCutchen, Polanco, and David Freese, who is the replacement for Kang, combined to go 1-14 Wednesday night. Not a recipe for success.
Taillon Was Brilliant
It's been a long time coming for the former second overall pick from 2010. After missing two full seasons due to injuries, Jameson Taillon finally made his major league debut last year, pitching strong in his 18 starts.
Now, in his first full season as a major leaguer, as the number two behind Gerrit Cole, it was time to go to work for Taillon.
Pitching on the road, against one of the best lineups in baseball, and going head-to-head versus one of the best pitchers in the league, Taillon was magnificent in his 2017 debut.
This matchup was a perfect representation of Taillon’s journey and skillset. The game's opposing pitcher, Red Sox Chris Sale was taken 13th overall in the same draft as Taillon, but as a college pitcher, soared through the minors, and made his major league debut the same year he was drafted.
It took Taillon six years to accomplish that.
Still, no matter the time it took to get there, Taillon showed why he was so highly thought of in a very deep draft (Manny Machado, Jose Fernandez, and Matt Harvey were selected after Taillon).
The 25-year-old righty went toe-to-toe with Sale, with both going seven shutout frames. Whereas Sale barely broke a sweat, Taillon showed composure and ability far beyond his experience and that of a budding frontline ace.,
In the fifth innings, Taillon issued a leadoff walk to Chris Young, before a hit and run executed by Jackie Bradley Jr. put runners on first and third with no outs.
Some can’t handle the pressure that comes with being put in this position. It’s what separates top-flight pitchers from the rest.
Taillon got Pablo Sandoval and Sandy Leon to swing and miss for back-to-back strikeouts. He got Sandoval upstairs with a fastball and then broke off a curve in the dirt to get Leon. He would get Dustin Pedroia to ground out to end the inning.
Another instance of great pitching was in the fourth against Andrew Benintendi. He started off by throwing his curveball for a strike on the outer half of the plate (something he was able to do on several occasions) for a called strike one. His second pitch, a fastball in on the hands, hit enough of the plate to be called a strike. Taillon finished off the best prospect in the game with a changeup away in the dirt that Benintendi chased and grounded out to Josh Harrison.
Not all great at bats end up in strikeouts, this was a perfect example of that.
Some other notes from the game
Outside of a deep double late in the opener, Josh Bell has looked overmatched in just about every other at bat. Receiving mostly fastballs, Bell has looked late on a lot of them, and other than a double hasn’t made solid contact with anything. If not for another lefty expected to start, you’d almost expect Bell to sit. He still could end up sitting to Phil Gosselin, who came in for John Jaso, who originally replaced Bell.
The Pirates outfield have combined to .074 (2-for-27) through two games. Two games mean almost nothing in the grand scheme of a 162 game schedule, but it’s bad regardless and a key reason for the team’s 0-2 start.