Pirates' Jameson Taillon throws 1-hitter vs. Reds for 1st career shutout
Jameson Taillon said nothing, and that said everything.
When Taillon walked off the mound Sunday after the eighth inning — his fifth without allowing a baserunner — Pirates manager Clint Hurdle asked him if he had any pitches left.
He probably knew the answer, but managers often feel the need to ask the question.
"I don't even know if I said anything back. I just looked at him," Taillon said. "Yeah, I'm going back out."
And so he did, pitching the ninth inning for the first time in his three major league seasons in a 5-0 victory against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park.
"He was sharp. He was focused. He was committed," said Hurdle, who was just as happy to give his bullpen some relief as he was to let Taillon finish what he started. Before Sunday, no Pirates pitcher had gone past the sixth inning.
"I just wanted to give him the opportunity to do it."
Taillon remembers coming close to a complete game two years ago in his rookie season, but Hurdle yanked him.
"He told me I'd have another chance one day," Taillon said. "He was good to his word. This was my chance."
The only hit was a groundball single up the middle by Reds starting pitcher Tyler Mahle with one out in the third inning. Mahle was batting eighth in the order.
Taillon was asked if he second-guessed the pitch to Mahle when the game was over, considering how close he came to throwing a no-hitter.
"As pitchers, we really can only hit fastballs," he said. "That's what I hit off him (an RBI single in the second inning). That's what he hit off me.
"I took my chances with the curveball. He didn't swing at it, so I thought it was time to move away from it."
Actually, Taillon thrived on his fastball in his second start — and second victory — of the season. He threw 110 pitches (80 fastballs) while walking only two and hitting a batter (Eugenio Suarez, who suffered a fractured right thumb on the pitch).
"My two-seamer was good all day," Taillon said. "We tried to do something different, different sequence. At the end, we were just saying, 'Here it is. Here's the 2-seamer. Come and hit it.' "
Said Hurdle: "It may very well have been the best fastball performance we've seen (from Taillon)."
Taillon's best trick was getting the Reds batters to swing. He averaged only 12.2 pitches per inning, getting 12 outs on three pitches or fewer.
"He controlled their bat speed," Hurdle said.
Taillon threw 73 percent fastballs because he had command of the pitch on both sides of the plate, he said.
"If you can move your fastball around, it's like multiple pitches," he said.
The Pirates' offense came into the game third in the majors in runs scored, but they were scoreless in six innings Sunday. Still, they've scored 58 runs in nine games.
In the second, Taillon drove in Jordy Mercer, who had doubled for his seventh hit in 12 at-bats since returning from his pinky finger injury.
In the fifth, Gregory Polanco hit a two-run homer — his third of the season — to give Taillon some cushion. Josh Bell's single drove in Starling Marte, who had doubled, and Corey Dickerson's first homer as a Pirate completed the day's scoring.
"Everybody is feeding off one another," Dickerson said. "It's weird. After we win, it's not a huge deal. We come off the field, and we're even keel."
Everyone in the clubhouse likes the 7-2 start, but what goes unspoken is six of those victories were against two teams projected to finish near the bottom of the league standings — the Reds and Detroit Tigers.
Hurdle isn't ready to declare Taillon has arrived as the pitcher the Pirates have been expecting since he was the second overall draft choice in 2010. He is content to let the season, Taillon and his team make progress at whatever pace they find.
"Let him pitch," Hurdle said. "Let him show you who he is and what he is. You don't need to write the end of the story now. It's April."
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.