CHICAGO -- Francisco Cervelli held his glove in place, waiting for the call from home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez that would end the sixth inning. As Marquez pumped his right hand, Cervelli bounced up and slapped his glove with his right hand. Admittedly feeling his legs get "a little shaky" minutes
CHICAGO -- Francisco Cervelli held his glove in place, waiting for the call from home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez that would end the sixth inning. As Marquez pumped his right hand, Cervelli bounced up and slapped his glove with his right hand. Admittedly feeling his legs get "a little shaky" minutes before, Jameson Taillon confidently strolled off the mound.
Taillon worked his way out of jams in the fifth and sixth en route to another stellar start, holding the Cubs to one run over seven innings in the Pirates' 5-1 win on Monday night at Wrigley Field. It was Taillon's 21st straight start of three earned runs or fewer, a streak surpassed this season by only Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
"Very impressed," Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said. "It might be one of the best runs that I've seen a starting pitcher have in my coaching experience, maybe playing experience."
Taillon allowed five hits and three walks while striking out five, and the only damage was done by his opponent on the mound. Cubs starter Cole Hamels crushed his second career homer a projected 437 feet to center field, according to Statcast™, in the third. That was as loud as Taillon would allow the crowd to get all night.
The Cubs loaded the bases with three singles in the fifth inning, but Taillon escaped by getting Benjamin Zobrist to ground out to first baseman Josh Bell. He pulled off another high-wire act after the first two batters reached safely in the sixth. Second baseman Adam Frazier scooped up Kyle Schwarber's grounder, hustled to second to force out Rizzo, then he made a leaping throw to Bell to complete the double play.
"The double play was the biggest play we made on defense all night," Hurdle said. "That was a big play, nice timing, some nice leadership [by] Frazier to make the play, get the throw off."
Taillon walked Kristopher Bryant to put runners on first and third in the sixth with Jason Heyward at the plate. With a 2-2 count, Taillon went to his slider. He incorporated the pitch only four months ago, looking for an offering in between his fastball and curveball, but Cervelli leaned on it heavily against the Cubs' lefty-laden lineup.
The crowd came back to life in that moment, sensing a scoring opportunity. Fighting his adrenaline, Taillon focused only on throwing the ball to the right side of the plate. The 90.3-mph pitch froze Heyward to end the inning.
"This guy is the real thing. His body language is different now," Cervelli said. "His confidence. He trusts every pitch in every count. He goes after people."
Even after two high-stress innings, Hurdle trusted Taillon to start the seventh. Taillon delivered a clean frame, lowering his ERA to 3.16 on the year.
"You really have to give it to Taillon. He came after us and threw the ball really well," Hamels said. "He's a tremendous pitcher and he has a lot of upside to look forward to. He's going to be a challenge from here on out."
Taillon pitched with a lead all night thanks to Cervelli, who launched a two-run homer onto Waveland Avenue in the first inning. It was Cervelli's 12th home run of the season and his first since Aug. 10.
• Cervelli's homer hits car parked outside Wrigley
Hamels' homer cut Pittsburgh's lead in half, and the Pirates missed an opportunity to pad their lead in the fourth, when Jordan Luplow and Kevin Newman stranded runners on the corners. But they got one back in the sixth on Jose Osuna's RBI double to right.
Rookie right fielder Pablo Reyes took care of the rest, continuing to make a strong impression with two hits in his first game at Wrigley Field. His RBI single in the seventh gave Taillon some additional breathing room, then he ripped a solo homer to left in the ninth to put the game out of reach.
"A couple guys told me, they said, 'Pablo, a lot of fans here.' This is my first time playing with so many fans," Reyes said. "I was a little bit nervous, it's normal. But after my first base hit, I said, 'OK, let's do it.'"
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Last week, Hurdle pored over advanced fielding metrics while considering National League Gold Glove Award candidates and the skipper came away impressed by the "separation" between left fielder Corey Dickerson and the rest of the pack. Dickerson made another highlight-reel grab to end the fourth inning, covering 103 feet in 5.3 seconds and sliding to take away a hit from Schwarber.
It was a four-star catch, according to Statcast™, given the 42 percent catch probability, and another example of Dickerson's season-long success making plays on balls in front of him. He entered the night with seven Outs Above Average coming in, a total that ranks behind only Harrison Bader, Albert Almora Jr. and Ender Inciarte.
"It's all about our positioning," Dickerson said. "It was a pretty far run. But that's a comfortable catch for me because I get under the baseball. I see the ball coming down, I'm able to get my time to adjust. I'm able to make a lot of plays by where I'm positioned, I think."
With only one start left, Taillon can't match the Pirates' longest single-season streak of starts with three earned runs or fewer. That record is held by Bob Friend, who put together a 23-start stretch in 1963.
Rookie reliever Richard Rodriguez, who worked a scoreless eighth, has not allowed a run in 18 innings over his last 17 appearances. He extended his club record for strikeouts by a rookie reliever to 87.
HE SAID IT
"I've been telling myself I feel good -- I do feel good -- but I've been tricking myself to say I feel the best I'm ever going to feel. I've been tricking myself into throwing my bullpens and still running my gassers, and getting my lifts in. I'm not slowing down at all. Until that last pitch is thrown, I'm just going to keep going."--Taillon, on finishing strong after a rough second half last season
Right-hander Chris Archer (5-8, 4.49 ERA), who is coming off his best outing with the Pirates, will make his penultimate start of 2018 at 8:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Archer has put together a 3.38 ERA and three quality starts in September. The Cubs will counter with lefty Mike Montgomery (5-5, 3.75 ERA).
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.