ATLANTA -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle sat back at his desk on Friday afternoon and chuckled after reading a list of the pitching company Jameson Taillon has kept over the past three months. Taillon's recent success isn't a laughing matter, but the way one reporter summarized it -- "pretty good" -- made his manager grin.
Taillon was "pretty good" again on Friday night at SunTrust Park, striking out seven over seven innings in the Pirates' 3-2 win over the Braves. It was Taillon's 17th straight start allowing three runs or fewer, a stretch that began on May 27. Only one starter has put together a longer streak this season: Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, a legitimate candidate for the National League Cy Young Award.
"He's turning into an ace," third baseman David Freese said, raving about Taillon's future only hours before being traded to the Dodgers.
During this 17-start stretch, Taillon has put together a 2.93 ERA. He has completed six innings in each of his last seven starts. He is the only NL pitcher to record two complete games this season and one of only six to pitch a shutout. Pretty good, right?
"You can learn from your success just as easily as you can from your failure," Taillon said. "I seem to take something away from every start, every bullpen -- there's always something."
Taillon is still learning on the job, figuring out how to manage lineups and attack certain hitters. On Friday, he pitched to his strengths: sinkers down in the zone complemented by a mix of curveballs and sliders. He also effectively pitched up in the zone with four-seam fastballs, like the one he used to strike out Johan Camargo in the fourth inning.
"That's a strong effort," Hurdle said. "It may be one of the better examples we've seen all year of cross-firing your fastball, your two-seam and four-seam fastball with conviction, velocity, location."
Taillon worked five scoreless innings before Braves phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. got to him in the sixth. Acuna launched a 2-0 fastball from Taillon out to right field for his 22nd homer, cutting Pittsburgh's 2-0 lead in half. Camargo tied the game in the seventh, smashing a slider from Taillon over the right-field wall.
"I gave up the one homer, and I said, 'All right, that's it,'" Taillon said. "Then I gave up the second one, and I really said, 'That has to be it.'"
That was it, and the Pirates rewarded Taillon's effort by battling back in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Adam Frazier drew a leadoff walk, moved to second when Ozzie Albies couldn't handle Starling Marte's hard grounder and took third on Josh Bell's flyout to center field. Up came Gregory Polanco, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on the night. But Polanco made up for it in his final at-bat, lacing a high fastball from reliever Brad Brach to center for an RBI single.
"That's the one thing where I think you've seen growth from him," Hurdle said. "He punches out twice, he puts his helmet down, he goes out, and he plays defense. He gets ready for the third at-bat, gets ready for the fourth at-bat. There's no emotional baggage or collateral damage that he's carrying around from at-bat to at-bat."
A night after they stranded 12 runners in St. Louis, the Pirates found timely hits when they needed them on Friday. Corey Dickerson doubled and scored on Elias Diaz's single up the middle in the second inning, giving the Bucs an early lead. Marte singled and eventually scored on Freese's base hit to center in the sixth.
Setup man Keone Kela struck out two in a perfect eighth inning, giving him 21 strikeouts and a 0.64 ERA in 14 appearances since joining the Pirates. Closer Felipe Vazquez gave up a pair of ground-ball singles then sealed the victory with his 29th save of the season and his 50th in a Pirates uniform.
"Keone was filthy tonight," Hurdle said. "Vazquez, they were able to put a couple hits together, but he's tough and he's been on a fantastic run himself."
The Pirates' bullpen finished August with a 2.93 ERA, second-lowest in the NL behind only the Cardinals. The Bucs' bullpen has recorded 491 strikeouts so far, four shy of their season total last year.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Diaz showed off his elite arm behind the plate in the first inning by completing a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play. Taillon fanned Freddie Freeman with a full-count slider as Ender Inciarte took off for second base. Diaz made an off-balance throw from his knees, and shortstop Kevin Newman applied the tag at second base.
"If I walk him there, it's first and second with one out," Taillon said. "Instead, I'm out of the inning because of that throw. That can be a game-changing moment."
HE SAID IT
"It feels good to be taking the ball. It feels good to look up there and see my inning count up there. You see it on the scoreboard. It's something to be proud of, taking the ball and pitching deep into games. That's something that I want to be known for. I don't know if I've been known for that in my career the way that I want to be. So, going forward, that's a point of focus." -- Taillon, who made his 27th start and ran his innings total to 159 this year
DIAZ EXITS WITH INJURY
Diaz left the game due to right hamstring discomfort, an injury he sustained while trying to run out a ground ball to lead off the seventh inning. Diaz limped around first base, where head athletic trainer Bryan Housand met him. The catcher walked slowly off the field under his own power. Francisco Cervelli replaced Diaz behind the plate in the bottom of the seventh. Diaz was being treated and evaluated by the Pirates' staff after the game.
"That was tough. We hate to see that," Taillon said. "Everyone loves Diaz. Everyone really loves Diaz. He's grown up so much this year."
Right-handers Chris Archer and Kevin Gausman will square off on Saturday night in a rematch of Trade Deadline acquisitions. Archer (1-2, 6.45 ERA with Pittsburgh) is still looking for his first quality start with the Pirates, while Gausman (4-1, 1.69 ERA with Atlanta) has been everything the Braves hoped for. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET at SunTrust Park.