CINCINNATI -- Jameson Taillon didn't have to start Saturday's game. After he beat the Cubs on Monday at Wrigley Field, Pirates management gave him the option to call it a season. But Taillon decided he wasn't done. He wanted the ball again. He still had something to prove.So Taillon took
CINCINNATI -- Jameson Taillon didn't have to start Saturday's game. After he beat the Cubs on Monday at Wrigley Field, Pirates management gave him the option to call it a season. But Taillon decided he wasn't done. He wanted the ball again. He still had something to prove.
So Taillon took the mound on Saturday at Great American Ball Park and finished his breakout campaign with another quality start in the Pirates' 3-0 loss to the Reds. Taillon's final outing of the year was also his 22nd straight allowing three earned runs or fewer, a streak surpassed this season only by Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
"I wanted to be able to have that prideful feeling of making every start for this team, being a guy where our position players can go look at the lineup card and -- knowing it's supposed to be my day -- see my name there every single time," Taillon said. "I'm definitely proud of myself, but obviously, there's still work to be done."
Set back in the Minors by Tommy John surgery and by testicular cancer last year, Taillon went wire-to-wire in the Pirates' rotation for the first time in his young career. He posted a 3.20 ERA and struck out 179 batters in 191 innings over 32 outings, including 20 quality starts. He has the ninth-best ERA among qualified National League starters, standing two spots behind teammate Trevor Williams (3.11).
The Pirates always knew Taillon had top-of-the-rotation ability. Manager Clint Hurdle remembered hearing about Taillon's potential from the Pirates' scouts, and later he watched the righty pitch for Team Canada against Team USA during the 2013 World Baseball Classic. All along, they believed Taillon could be the pitcher he turned into this season.
"He showed who he's become, who he's still growing into," Hurdle said. "It's been fun to watch him, and it was really fun to watch his teammates respond to him as he finished his game up today."
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Taillon's equally impressive makeup became apparent as he overcame adversity that might have derailed others' careers. When he struggled through two starts in late April, Taillon sought a better understanding of his strengths and weaknesses. He learned more about sequencing his pitches, how to manage lineups, and how to control his emotions on the mound.
"It's been a crazy journey," Taillon said. "To be able to look back and have a year like this, I think this will be a big one to springboard me going forward."
The Reds scored enough to beat Taillon, as the Bucs were held scoreless a day after putting up eight runs. Giving up three runs total in the third and fourth put Taillon's streak in jeopardy, but he returned to pitch the fifth and sixth, and he retired all six batters he faced.
Over the last few weeks, Taillon said, he's been "tricking" himself into believing his body is as fresh as it was on Opening Day despite the biggest workload of his career. He did it again before the sixth, knowing it was his final inning until 2019, and his last pitches of the season showed his evolution into a more complete pitcher this year.
Taillon's first pitch to Tucker Barnhart was a fastball above the strike zone, a weapon he implemented this spring to counter the launch-angle revolution. He evened the count with a slider, a pitch he introduced in May to provide another offering between his fastball and curveball. He got Barnhart to swing and miss at another slider, then fired a low, 96.9-mph fastball for strike three.
"It was a good feeling walking off that mound," Taillon said.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Mr. .300:Corey Dickerson knocked a single to left field in the sixth inning, bringing his batting average to exactly .300 for the season. He played two more innings in left field, then Jose Osuna replaced him as a pinch-hitter. Dickerson will end the season with a .300 average, the first qualified Pirates player to do so since Starling Marte batted .311 in 2016.
Dickerson will head into the offseason having accomplished his two main goals for the season. He cut his strikeout total nearly in half, from 152 to 80, and he proved himself as an above-average -- Gold Glove Award-worthy, even -- left fielder.
"You just try to lead by example. I've been raised that way," Dickerson said. "I've always had to battle against the odds. I overcame a lot in my life and career. It just makes it that much more humbling and appreciative when you're able to accomplish things."
HE SAID IT
"I definitely saw what the guys picked around me were doing for a long time. They've been doing it for a long time, a lot longer than me. But the whole time I was rehabbing, the whole time I was in the Minor Leagues while they were having success, I knew I had something to offer, and I knew I could be a successful Major League pitcher. So I never lost sight of that. I stayed confident the whole way through it." -- Taillon, who was drafted second overall in 2010, between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado
Leadoff man Adam Frazier left the game in the fourth inning as a precaution due to right hamstring tightness. Pablo Reyes replaced him in right field to begin the fourth.
Shortstop Jordy Mercer exited in the fifth inning due to right forearm discomfort. Mercer took a hard-bouncing ground ball hit by Suarez off his forearm and chest in the first inning. Kevin Newman replaced him at shortstop.
The Pirates will finish their first winning season since 2015 on Sunday at 3:10 p.m. ET at Great American Ball Park. Chris Archer (groin strain) had been scheduled to start the season finale, but it will instead be a bullpen game, with right-hander Clay Holmes taking the mound first. Right-hander Sal Romano will start for the Reds.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.