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Pirates rally past Nationals with big 9th inning

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, 10:18 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Nothing came easy this season for Jameson Taillon, so why would his final start be any different?

Taillon tossed seven strong innings on Saturday — arguably his best outing since early April — but got zero run support.

“Maybe as good a game as he pitched all year,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It had to be a very good feeling to finish so strong.”

The Pirates rallied for four runs in the ninth inning and pulled out a 4-1 victory against the Washington Nationals.

The comeback took Tallion off the hook for a loss, but he got a no-decision to show for a superb performance. The right-hander yielded one run on four hits, walked one and struck out five.

“It feels good,” Taillon said. “It kind of verifies that what (pitching coach) Ray (Searage) and I have been working on were the right things and got me back to where I needed to be. I can go into the offseason knowing this game is where I want to be. It leaves a good taste.”

It was the deepest Taillon had worked into a game since April 16, when he gave up one unearned run in seven innings against the Chicago Cubs.

After getting just one hit over the first eight innings, the Pirates scored four runs on four hits in the ninth off reliever Brandon Kintzler.

Starling Marte led off with an infield single, which extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Jordan Luplow, who was inserted as the cleanup hitter when Andrew McCutchen (sore foot) was scratched before the game, followed with a single.

With two outs, Sean Rodriguez lined an RBI single to left. Elias Diaz walked to load the bases. Max Moroff jumped on a first-pitch sinker and roped his first career triple into the gap in left-center field.

“I faced (Kintzler) on Friday night, and he threw me the same exact pitch and I popped out on it,” Moroff said. “This time, I stayed through it and tried to hit the ball over the shortstop's head. It went a little higher, but that's what I was trying to do.”

The game capped a bittersweet season for Taillon.

He surgery for testicular cancer May 8, beat the disease, and was back on the mound for the Pirates on June 12.

“I wanted to show some strength,” Taillon said. “At the time, I thought it would help my family, too, if they saw me working toward being a baseball player again. I wanted to be out there.”

Yet, the fight took a toll.

After the All-Star break, Taillon dropped three of his first four starts, including back-to-back games in which he allowed a total of 18 earned runs over 6 23 innings.

This was the first season Taillon went wire-to-wire in the majors, and he seemed to get stronger in September. He allowed two or fewer runs in eight of his 10 starts on the road.

“There's games when he's had such domination, you could see him fighting for the Cy Young (Award) someday,” first baseman Josh Bell said.

In the second inning, Daniel Murphy fouled off three fastballs and a changeup before lining a curveball into right field for a leadoff single. He went to second base on a wild pitch.

Ryan Zimmerman whipped another curve into center for an RBI single.

Taillon gave up just two hits — both one-out singles — over the next five innings. He set the Nationals down in order in the third, sixth and seventh, and his final pitch of the game was a 94 mph four-seamer.

“The seventh inning was the best my mechanics have felt in a while,” Taillon said. “I got some stuff synced up, and I was still making some really good pitches. The whole game was good, but I thought the seventh inning was better.”

Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced but left the game with what a tight right hamstring.

After throwing ball three to Bell, Scherzer landed awkwardly, then went behind the mound and stretched. He walked off the field without attempting another pitch.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

The Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman slides safely under the tag of Pirates third baseman Sean Rodriguez on a fly ball to center by the Nationals' Matt Wieters during the second inning.
The Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman slides safely under the tag of Pirates third baseman Sean Rodriguez on a fly ball to center by the Nationals' Matt Wieters during the second inning.
Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer walks to the dugout with head trainer Paul Lessard after being pulled in the fourth against the Pirates.
Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer walks to the dugout with head trainer Paul Lessard after being pulled in the fourth against the Pirates.
Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon delivers during the first inning against Washington.
Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon delivers during the first inning against Washington.
Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon went seven innings to beat the Nationals.
Getty Images
Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon went seven innings to beat the Nationals.
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