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Breakfast with Benz

Tim Benz: Bucs looking for Jameson Taillon's best

| Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, 7:48 a.m.
Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon delivers during the first inning against the Phillies Saturday, July 7, 2018, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon delivers during the first inning against the Phillies Saturday, July 7, 2018, at PNC Park.

Quite a few eyes will be on the game today between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Rockies in Colorado. It's being billed as a true, feel-good matchup given that Jameson Taillon is pitching against Chad Bettis.

Both men are testicular cancer survivors, and many outlets are touting the game as an opportunity for hope for those who are battling the disease.

Taillon has always been one who has embraced the role of being out in front, spreading that message, as well as preaching the need for examination and discovery. But for as much attention as this outing may get for non-baseball reasons, boy could the Pirates use an "ace-type" performance out of him on the mound.

Only the most optimistic Pirates fan would have suggested that the club was acquiring an ace in Chris Archer when they got him at the trade deadline.

His career arc suggests he's now likely more of a 2-3 pitcher on a rotation that is in playoff contention.

The team's ace should still — in theory — be Taillon, although Joe Musgrove has been the one who has pitched as a lead dog more than anyone of late. In his past six starts, Musgrove has pitched into the seventh inning five times. Also in five of his last six starts, Musgrove has given up two or fewer earned runs.

That's the kind of outing the Bucs need to get from Taillon today. It'll be challenging in Coors Field against the Rockies. But the Pirates have stumbled of late, following their 11-game win streak.

The Buccos have lost four of their last five games. They haven't won a series since the team left Cleveland, splitting against the Mets and Cubs while dropping two of three against the Cardinals.

The club got off on the wrong foot against Colorado last night, getting blanked 2-0. So now Taillon needs to play the role of stopper. He has managed to whittle his ERA from 4.83 to start May down to 3.74 right now.

The right-hander has also managed to get a win in three of his last four starts, and a quality start in four of five. So, that's good. But Taillon may need to go from "quality" to "elite" today.

Games like last night are usually an outlier at Coors Field. It's often a hitter's playground. The Pirates can't afford a so-so start from the 26-year-old franchise building block. Taillon's "mistake pitches" could turn into big-time blunders in the thin mountain air. He needs to be stellar, especially since the Pirates' bats are struggling at the plate.

Clint Hurdle's troops have fallen into fourth place in the Central division. They are seventh in the wild-card battle.

The front office's commitment to stay in the race has been admirable of late. Unfortunately, the team's play on the field has been short of that in recent contests.

Taillon needs to be most responsible for turning that around starting today.

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