DENVER -- Jameson Taillon was in rarified air in Tuesday night's 10-2 Pirates victory. And it wasn't the thin, mile-high atmosphere at Coors Field that has given so many pitchers nightmares over the years.
In fact, it was in spite of the hitter-friendly park that Taillon became the first National League pitcher to throw two complete games this season, hurling a spellbinding nine-inning gem and holding the Rockies to two runs for the second night in a row.
"I've watched 1,300, 1,400 ballgames here, and you don't see a lot of complete games," said manager Clint Hurdle, who spent the first eight years of his managerial career skippering the Rockies. "He finished strong. There was no backing off. Fastball velocity, maintained throughout the game, he finished it. Slider played very well for him, the curveball, not so much. It was the fastball -- in, out, up and down, two-seamer, four-seamer, handful of changeups that helped him from time to time, getting the ball on the ground a couple times, big double plays. The fastball was a weapon tonight and the slider was a nice accessory to have."
There have been 52 complete games at Coors Field, which is in its 24th season, and Taillon's was the first nine-inning complete game by a visiting pitcher since Clayton Kershaw threw a shutout on July 2, 2013.
"I guess I'm in good company, I didn't really know," Taillon said. "Defense played great, offense spotted me a lead, so I was able to pitch aggressively and piggyback off what Joe [Musgrove] did last night. He was really aggressive, got ahead of guys, pitched to his strengths. That gave me confidence."
Musgrove pitched seven innings of two-run ball Monday night, but lost as Kyle Freeland and the Rockies' bullpen blanked the Bucs on two hits. Taillon finished Tuesday's game with two runs allowed on 10 hits and a walk while striking out three.
"That feels pretty good," Taillon said of the rare 10-hit complete game. "You spread out their hits, some big double-play balls, making pitches with runners on. That's the key to starting pitching. If you want to go deep in games you can't let them piggyback their hits together, you try to make them spread them out over time."
He certainly impressed the Rockies, who boast a fearsome lineup with perennial league leaders scattered throughout.
"Every pitch tonight from him was working," said Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. "Good run, natural sinking, 95, 96, running away from you and going in on right-handers. And he had that great slider combined with the cutter, and his curveball was a great weapon, too. He got all his pitches working and we weren't able to score a bunch of runs on him. And he went the distance."
He faced Chad Bettis, who has been one of the Rockies' strongest starters, but had just come off the disabled list (right middle finger blister) and gave up a season-high nine runs in 4 1/3 innings. Both are cancer survivors who lost much of the 2017 season as they recovered from testicular cancer, and though Tuesday's outcome was lopsided, they've both shown incredible resilience in pitching at the top of their game.
"We've both gone through something that is extremely similar, and we both go through something similar starting pitching in the Major Leagues," Taillon said. "There's an understood bond there, something we'll share for life. I'm not a real emotional guy, but I doubt he was too emotional. We're trying to do our jobs, but I hope we can be an inspiration to people at home."
Tuesday's dose of inspiration began building when Hurdle elected not to pinch-hit for Taillon in the top of the eighth with two outs, citing a simple explanation.
"His pitch count and the stuff," Hurdle said. "He threw 107 pitches in nine innings at the end of the night, so he's pitch efficient. He's got 80 after seven. The way our rotation goes, it's not like he's pitching again in three days or four days, so he's got time to catch his breath. It's only 107 pitches. The stuff was good, it was fun to watch him."
Taillon threw a season-high 110 pitches in his previous complete game, his first start of the season on April 8 -- a one-hit shutout against the Reds. He had a familiar feeling of intensity as the ninth inning drew closer.
"When you run back out for the ninth, it's a cool feeling," Taillon said. "Usually, that ninth inning is the backend bullpen arms' inning. You always hear closing out games is tough, weird things happen in the ninth, so I told myself, 'It's a 0-0 game, lets close out this inning.'"
Perhaps no one was more inspired than the rest of the rotation, who were pulling for Taillon enthusiastically and lobbying Hurdle to put the 'pen out of his mind in the late innings.
"Musgrove said, 'We're going to cut the cord off the phone,'" Hurdle said. "I said, 'Well, go ahead.' It's special. That's what I told Jamo when he came off. That's really strong stuff, and it doesn't happen very often."