Taillon OK after liner hits head in wild 2nd inning

Pitcher charged with 6 unearned runs, will be re-evaluated Tuesday

April 8th, 2019

CHICAGO -- The first thing that went through 's head immediately after being hit by a 102-mph line drive on Monday is that he should have executed a better pitch.

As it turns out, not getting enough defensive support from his Pirates teammates proved to be more damaging. Taillon avoided a serious injury scare after he was hit on the head by an Anthony Rizzo RBI single in a six-run second inning that sparked a 10-0 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

A two-out error by shortstop opened the door for the Cubs, who broke the game open off of Taillon, who remained in the game after being hit and who did not allow an earned run. Taillon underwent concussion protocol on the mound and passed initial testing, but manager Clint Hurdle said the combination of being hit and throwing 38 pitches in the inning was enough to remove Taillon from the game.

"I'm fine," Taillon said afterward. "It seems to be unlucky I get hit and lucky that I seem to be OK coming out of it."

This marks the second time Taillon has been hit by a line drive since 2016, when he was hit by a 105-mph comebacker off the bat of the Brewers' Hernan Perez. Like Monday, that incident took place in the second inning. During the outing three years ago, he remained in the game for four innings after being hit. On Monday, Taillon faced three more hitters before leaving the game.

The loss snapped the Pirates' four-game winning streak and included four errors -- three of which were committed by Newman in the fateful second inning. Melky Cabrera had two hits for the Bucs, who never threatened to score, including after Cubs ace Jon Lester exited the game with left hamstring tightness after just two-plus innings.

But the Pirates' defense proved to be the bigger letdown. After Taillon recorded two quick outs to start the second inning, Cubs second baseman Daniel Descalso sent a routine ground ball toward Newman, who had shifted closer to second base as part of a defensive adjustment. Newman fielded the ball and then threw wide, which extended the inning.

The Cubs capitalized and had seven straight hitters reach base as part of the momentum-shifting inning. The two-out rally began on an RBI double by Lester, who came through after Taillon intentionally walked Jason Heyward. Ben Zobrist followed with a two-run single before Rizzo and Javier Baez cushioned the Cubs' lead with RBI singles.

"It definitely felt like a long [inning] for sure," Newman said. "It's definitely not the way you want things to go, especially when your pitcher is out there doing his job getting ground balls."

The Pirates were done in by Newman's three errors, two of which came on one play on a Kyle Schwarber single before Taillon struck out Willson Contreras for the second time in the inning to finally get the Bucs out of trouble. The error-filled inning came only two days after Newman delivered a walk-off hit in the 10th inning as the Pirates beat the Reds.

"It's crazy -- a couple of days ago, it's the greatest day on the field I had ever had and today was quite the opposite," Newman said. "This game is humbling -- [we will] try to come back in a couple of days and try to get a win."

Hurdle said he expects Newman to learn from Monday's mistakes and move on.

"The lessons up here -- they're real," Hurdle said. "Life challenges you, sport challenges you and how you deal with the adversity is usually what defines you. But we have confidence that he will continue to work through it and become better for it."

After the error-filled inning, however, the bigger concern was Taillon, who was examined by a doctor after leaving the game. Results of the exam came back normal, but Taillon will be re-examined on Tuesday. He said he didn't think he got his glove on the ball, which struck him flush, but that hit him on "an all-right part" of the head. Taillon said he did not experience any dizziness and never lost a sense of where he was. But it was the result of the play that bothered him more.

"It's just a crappy feeling watching the ball [Rizzo hit] fly into center," he said. "It's a pitch that gets driven and I need to make a better pitch there.

"The game could have gone a lot of different ways -- it just didn't and that's the way it goes."

The Cubs added two more runs in the third inning on a Zobrist groundout and a Kris Bryant double before pushing the lead to 10 runs on Schwarber's two-run homer in the fourth inning.

Newman said that despite giving up six runs in the second, the Bucs never felt like they were out of the game, but they just couldn't find opportunities to come back.

Now, the Pirates will turn their attention to Wednesday's game, when Hurdle said his team must execute better than it did on Monday when one miscue turned into much, much more.

"We need to play better defense," Hurdle said. "There were a couple of different sequences there [in the second inning] where the execution of pitches didn't help, but defensively, we got outs to put away and we didn't do it, and the inning got away from us."