ST. LOUIS -- As Clint Hurdle wrote out the Pirates' lineup on Wednesday morning, an entirely homegrown group from one to eight, he thought, "OK, here we go. These are our guys, truly." They had their guy on the mound, too.Right-hander Jameson Taillon, drafted and developed by Pittsburgh to be
ST. LOUIS -- As Clint Hurdle wrote out the Pirates' lineup on Wednesday morning, an entirely homegrown group from one to eight, he thought, "OK, here we go. These are our guys, truly." They had their guy on the mound, too.
Right-hander Jameson Taillon, drafted and developed by Pittsburgh to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, put together another strong outing -- the kind of performance the Pirates have come to expect from him -- in the Bucs' 4-3 win over the Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium.
Taillon held the Cardinals to two runs on four hits as he worked into the eighth inning, his 19th straight start allowing three earned runs or fewer. That is the second-longest streak of its kind in the National League this season, behind Mets ace Jacob deGrom (26 straight), and the longest by a Pirate since Gerrit Cole had 19 straight from 2014-15.
Taillon had success as a rookie in 2016. But he sought consistency this season after a rough return from testicular cancer in the second half last year. Now, Taillon is finishing his first full healthy campaign in the Majors with authority. He's posted a 2.86 ERA over his last 19 starts, lowering his overall ERA to 3.37.
"Last year, especially in the second half, I had some ups and downs -- a lot of downs -- and I think that kind of prepared me for this year," he said. "I wanted to be that guy to go out there and pitch deep into the game and give us a chance."
Taillon has done that more often than not this season. He has pitched seven or more innings in seven of his 29 starts. He eclipsed the 170-inning mark during Wednesday's start, which he noticed while reading his numbers on the scoreboard above the Pirates' bullpen.
"Especially the innings, that's something that I'm proud of," Taillon said. "I'm not done yet. I'd love to, after the year, look back and be extra proud of what I've done. For right now, it's cool. I've thrown the most innings of my life, and I feel strong."
Taillon continued his season-long dominance with runners in scoring position by escaping two jams. Opposing starter Daniel Poncedeleon led off the third with a triple to left, his first big league hit, but Taillon stranded him there by retiring the next three hitters in order. Harrison Bader singled and stole third with one out in the fifth, but Taillon struck out pinch-hitter Greg Garcia and retired Matt Carpenter to end the inning.
Overall this season, opponents are hitting just .189 with runners in scoring position against Taillon. What makes him so effective in tight spots? The same characteristics that have driven this 19-start stretch.
"The focus, to be able to just whittle it down to one pitch at a time and not get caught up in a moment or in a play or in something that happens around him," Hurdle said. "But at the end of the day, it's all about execution of pitches."
All nine of Pittsburgh's starters were either drafted or signed as international free agents, and five of the Pirates' eight starting position players were rookies. They played a big part in backing up Taillon against Poncedeleon and St. Louis' bullpen.
Jordan Luplow, batting cleanup for the second time in his big league career, had three hits, drove in a run and scored two. Super-utility man Pablo Reyes and shortstop Kevin Newman extended two of the Pirates' rallies as they each finished with two hits. And catcher Jacob Stallings, known primarily for his defense, drove in three runs from the eighth spot in the order.
"Really good at-bats, really clean at-bats," Hurdle said. "And it was good for them because they were needed today."
Stallings came to the plate twice with the bases loaded and one out. He tied the game in the second with a sacrifice fly to center field and provided necessary insurance in the sixth with a two-run single up the middle.
"It's hard for me to get RBIs when nobody's on base because I don't hit very many home runs," Stallings said, smiling. "Those guys put me in good spots all day -- bases loaded twice -- and luckily I was able to come through a couple times."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez hadn't pitched since Friday, so Hurdle was planning to get him into Wednesday's game no matter what. As it turned out, Vazquez needed to be well-rested for his third two-inning appearance of the season.
Taillon exited after putting runners on first and second with nobody out in the eighth, and Vazquez came in to face Carpenter. He gave up one run after Corey Dickerson lost a fly ball in the sun and Jose Martinez hit an RBI groundout, then returned to pitch the ninth. The Cards pulled within a run and put the tying run on third, but Vazquez struck out Paul DeJong and caught Carpenter looking at a full-count slider to end the game.
"It just came right back over the plate and froze him," Stallings said. "Any time you can freeze a hitter like that in that situation, you know it's a good pitch."
The last Pirates pitcher to allow three earned runs or fewer over 19 starts in one season was Bob Friend, who reeled off 23 straight from May 10-Aug. 12, 1963.
"That's good company. If there's something that hasn't been done since 1963, you're doing something right," Taillon said. "That's a long time, a lot of years and a lot of great players that have come through since then. It's been a fun run."
HE SAID IT
"It's cool. I take a lot of pride in it. We love guys like Joe [Musgrove] who came from outside, too, but it's cool -- especially to win a game with all Pirates out there. That's something we take pride in. That's something the whole Minor League staff, front office and all of them should take pride in, too."--Taillon, on the homegrown lineup
After a day off in Milwaukee, the Pirates will begin a three-game series against the Brewers on Friday night at Miller Park. Right-hander Chris Archer (4-7, 4.56 ERA), coming off a pair of quality starts, will pitch the series opener against left-hander Giovany Gonzalez (8-11, 4.40) at 8:10 p.m. ET. Pittsburgh is 9-4 against Milwaukee this season, the best winning percentage of any National League team that's played the Brewers this year.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.