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Curveball helps Taillon tame Phillies' offense

Pirates pitcher strikes out a career-high nine batters
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- In five starts since returning after surgery for testicular cancer, Jameson Taillon has been even better than his pre-surgery self, sporting a 1.98 ERA and looking every bit like the No. 2 overall pick of Pirates in the Draft in 2010.

Taillon silenced the Phillies over five innings in Tuesday's 3-0 win. He struck out a career-high nine batters, the most strikeouts for a Pirates starter this season.

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PHILADELPHIA -- In five starts since returning after surgery for testicular cancer, Jameson Taillon has been even better than his pre-surgery self, sporting a 1.98 ERA and looking every bit like the No. 2 overall pick of Pirates in the Draft in 2010.

Taillon silenced the Phillies over five innings in Tuesday's 3-0 win. He struck out a career-high nine batters, the most strikeouts for a Pirates starter this season.

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The outing was only cut short because Taillon worked heavily out of the stretch. He bent, but did not break, using 102 pitches to navigate the Phillies' lineup. The Phillies went 0-for-7 with runners scoring position with Taillon in the game, dropping his opponents' average to .180 with runners scoring position.

"They [Phillies] battled in the at-bats, strung out counts and fouled some balls off," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "But the nine strikeouts, the two walks, that's a lot of pitches. Normally, it's quick contact. That wasn't happening a lot today."

Taillon prefers the less-stressful innings, even if the strikeouts drop. He faced 16 batters from the stretch and just six from the windup Tuesday.

"I would have liked to have had quicker innings," Taillon said. "But in that tight of a game, I'm just worried about getting guys out and keeping guys from crossing the plate."

At least one Phillies baserunner was stranded in scoring position in each of Taillon's five innings.

An enormous factor for Taillon's success was his curveball.

"I had it for strikes, I had it for chase. It wasn't very good in the bullpen before the game, I don't know if I threw one good one," Taillon said. "The game can speed you up and fix your mechanics a little bit. When there's a hitter in there it's kind of do or die, you got to make the pitches."

The man with the best view in the house of Taillon's sharp breaker was Andrew McCutchen patrolling center.

"[It looked] like it always has -- big [curveball] and in the zone then out of it. He has one of the better curveballs in the game," McCutchen said.

Taillon got seven of his nine strikeout on curveballs. None came anywhere in the top-half of the strike zone. He now has 32 strikeouts with the pitch this season, more than half of all his strikeouts. Among the 245 pitchers that entered Tuesday with at least one curveball strikeout, Taillon's 32 were tied for 14th best.

But the flashy strikeouts aren't Taillon's primary game. He wants longevity.

"Striking guys out is cool, I've never honestly been a huge super high strikeout guy. I honestly didn't even know how many I had either so nine is a cool number, it's pretty high. Like I said, I would have rather gone seven with four strikeouts," he said.

Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. He covered the Pirates on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Jameson Taillon