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Jameson Taillon Looked Like He Belongs in the Big Leagues in Pro Debut

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PITTSBURGH — Jameson Taillon earned a no-decision in his Major League debut Wednesday, pitching six innings in the Pirates’ 6-5 10-inning loss to the New York Mets. He also didn’t leave much doubt about the decision Pirates General Manger Neal Huntington will have to make about his plans for Taillon’s future either: Taillon definitely looked like he belonged in a big-league ballpark.

“He competed, threw all his pitches. It was fun to watch him out there,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I thought he put us in a good position. I’m proud of him. Well done.”

From the first pitch, his stuff was evident. Taillon’s fastball started out in the 96 to 97 MPH range before dropping to 94-95 by the end of his start. He got three strikeouts, the first with a changeup, which is the most recently developed of his three primary offerings. He also got Rene Rivera to swing over a fastball and caught James Loney looking with a heater. And his curveball, well, it did this:

Taillon also threw a two-seam fastball, another pitch recently added to his repertoire, and he mixed it about 50/50 with the four-seamer.

“It’s a pitch I can be aggressive with in hitters’ counts, things like that,” he said.

Taillon’s final line included six hits, two walks, and three runs, two of which came on Ty Kelly’s two-out home run in the fourth.

“I made a mistake pitch to Kelly,” he admitted. “I’d like to have that one back.”

But Taillon got right back into a groove, striking out Rivera to end the inning.

“Unfortunately, I’ve given up my fair share of home runs through the minor leagues. Obviously, this was on a little bit bigger of a stage, but I’ve done it before,” he said. “I just tried to get back into the zone and go after the next guy.”

That was part of the mature makeup that Taillon also displayed throughout the night. For the most part, he hit his spots, fielded his position, laid down a bunt, and on the whole, looked anything but someone making his first MLB start.

“I was probably more nervous when I showed up to the park yesterday,” he said. “I’m used to the routine, I’m used to pitching. Once I have the ball in my hand, that’s something that I’m a little bit more comfortable with.”

“I thought he maintained an even keel throughout his outing,” Hurdle said.

Taillon’s teammates had even more praise.

“He’s a pro,” reliever Jared Hughes said. “He belongs here. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of Jameson over the years.”

“That was the first time I caught him. I never saw him before,” catcher Francisco Cervelli said. “This guy is a big-league pitcher. You’re going to see him [again] soon. I’m 100 percent sure. The way he controlled himself, his attitude, this guy is a pro.”

Cervelli and Taillon hit it off from the morning game-plan session and Taillon’s comfort level with the experienced catcher was evident.

“He’s really good at what he does,” Taillon said. “In our meeting before the game going over the lineup, I just said I’m going to follow him and throw whatever he puts down. I didn’t shake one time. I just rolled with it and trusted him. It took some relief off my shoulders. I was just able to kind of focus on executing pitches.”

Cervelli said that he told Taillon, “Have fun. If you don’t feel anything in your stomach, you’re not from this planet.”

Taillon thought his command could have been a bit sharper. He issued two walks, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but he only had six on the season in Triple-A.

“I thought the at-bat with [Neil] Walker, he took some pretty competitive pitches,” Taillon said. “That’s a professional with a good eye. I threw some pretty close pitches. You never like to walk guys, but if you get back in the zone, it shouldn’t kill you.”

BULLPEN TROUBLE

After Taillon exited, the Pirates took a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh on an Andrew McCutchen walk, a Gregory Polanco double and a Josh Harrison sacrifice fly. The bullpen was unable to hold onto the lead, though, as A.J. Shugel walked Alejandro De Aza and the Michael Conforto homered off Jared Hughes.

“It looked like a ball he was able to extend to,” Hurdle said. “Hughes just misfired.”

Hughes was dealing with a cut on one of the calluses on his hand, but he insisted that it wasn’t effecting his pitching. After the home run, he gave up a single to Yoenis Cespedes, walked Walker and intentionally walked Asdrubal Cabrera before working out of the jam. It’s been an up-and-down season for Hughes, whose WHIP is now up to 1.79.

Going forward, Hughes hopes to “build off the positive” — getting out of the jam — as opposed to getting negative about the way he got into it.

Cory Luebke took the loss after giving up a run and three hits in the 11th inning. With Mark Melancon and Neftali Feliz unavailable and the bullpen short a man due to Taillon’s presence, Luebke was the last man left in the Pirates’ bullpen.

COFFEE POWER

Gregory Polanco was 3 for 5 on the evening with three doubles. He now leads the National League in that category with 21 and is slugging .555 on the season, up 174 points from last year.

“[It was] special to watch him tonight. He’s doing some things that grab your attention,” Hurdle said. “It was a very good night for him. …. There’s not a facet of his game that hasn’t gotten better since he’s been here.”

Hurdle also complimented Polanco’s defense, his versatility (he started in left due to Starling Marte’s injury) and his base running (he had one of four stolen bases for the Pirates).

JOYCE HOT, COOL

Matt Joyce was thrown out of the game by umpire Alan Porter after striking out in the seventh inning. Joyce disagreed with the called third strike, and threw down his bat, which angered Porter and started a conversation that led to Joyce’s ejection.

But as hot as Joyce was about the call, the ejection was probably just as much about his recent cold streak at the plate. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts after going 0 for 5 with five strikeouts the day before.

“I was just frustrated [and] didn’t necessarily agree with the pitch,” he said of the ejection.

His extra time in the clubhouse gave him a moment to be more analytical about his recent struggles.

“[We] faced [Jacob] deGrom and [Noah] Syndergaard,” he said. “It’s two of the best pitchers in the game. They spotted up and didn’t make many mistakes. It’s a tough game.”

STRETCHING THEM OUT

For the third straight game, the Pirates were able to work a high pitch count to their favor against one of the Mets’ trio of aces. It took Syndergaard 30 pitches to get through the first inning, and the Pirates were able to chase him after six innings and go to work against the Mets’ bullpen.

“[It was] one of our best performances I think, from an offensive standpoint,” Hurdle said. “Going against quality starters, big-time guys, with good arms, each one of them. We were able to push the pitch limit, scratch. Noah’s not a guy you’re going to beat out of the ballpark by swinging the bat. You get some hits, do some things on the bases, see some pitches, it was an overall effect.”

NOTES

• Marte, who is battling an ankle contusion, appeared as a pinch hitter, flying out in the eighth inning.

• Jeff Locke will pitch Thursday in a one-game series in Colorado against the Rockies’ Chad Bettis. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. The game was rescheduled from May 3. The Pirates will then return to Pittsburgh for a three-game weekend series against the Cardinals.

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