Taillon tallies first victory in exactly 2 years

May 1st, 2021

NEW YORK -- stood before his teammates near the center of the Yankees’ clubhouse on Saturday afternoon, grinning as he cradled a gold-plated championship belt in his hands. It’s always special to be selected as the team’s player of the game, but this meant much more.

Taillon navigated five innings of one-run ball to earn his first win in exactly two years, backed by three-RBI performances from and . The Yankees posted their fourth victory in five games, celebrating a 6-4 victory over the Tigers at Yankee Stadium.

“There were times where I wasn’t 100 percent sure whether I’d ever be back in a big league uniform, let alone to be on a team like the Yankees,” Taillon said. “There’s a lot of people that played a part to get me back to this point, and now I’m looking forward to putting my head down and knocking out more starts.”

Taillon scattered three hits and struck out eight against three walks, logging his first win since May 1, 2019, for the Pirates against the Rangers. That was Taillon’s final outing before undergoing his second career Tommy John procedure, another challenge in an up-and-down career that also included a bout with testicular cancer.

“After two years, to pitch like that and to win, he’s amazing,” Torres said. “To me, he’s an inspiration. He passed those situations and he continued. He has [shown] us what he can do. It’s really great; I’m so happy for him.”

The 29-year-old Taillon said that it took him longer than expected to notch his first win; New York won just one of his first four starts for the club. Taillon was clocked as high as 95.9 mph on Saturday, feeding the Tigers lineup an effective mix of fastballs (38), curveballs (27), sliders (11) and changeups (3).

“I think he’s continuing to pound the strike zone, getting more comfortable and confident,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I’m really excited for him, knowing that he’s been through a lot to get to this point.”

Jeimer Candelario accounted for the only run off Taillon, homering on a hanging slider in the fourth inning. Taillon pitched into trouble in the fifth, as an infield hit and two walks loaded the bases for Miguel Cabrera.

“I told myself, ‘Let’s just slow this down. Let’s make one pitch at a time,’” Taillon said. “Miggy is one of the best hitters of our generation, if not the best. No matter what stage of his career he’s in, I have a ton of respect for a guy like that standing in the box. That was a good challenge for me.”

Taillon gassed the two-time MVP with an elevated fastball, then shouted into his glove as he strutted off the field.

“That was a big moment,” Judge said. “That just shows you what type of competitor he is. He’s not going to back down from anybody.”

Here comes the Judge
One day after launching a pair of homers -- including his second career grand slam -- Judge swelled his weekend tally to eight RBIs with a go-ahead double in the fifth inning, then cashed two more with a bases-loaded knock off José Cisnero as part of a four-run sixth.

“I’m trying to do my job, especially when I’ve got guys on base,” Judge said. “I’m just trying to pick up my teammates; that’s really what it comes down to. Just trying to lock it in for that 15, 30, 45 seconds and trying to do [the] job. I’m feeling good; I think the results and the work speak for itself on how I’m feeling.”

New York peppered right-hander Spencer Turnbull for four runs and five hits over five-plus innings. Torres punched a run-scoring single through the right side of the infield in the third inning and Judge smoked a 112.1 mph RBI double in the fifth, scoring DJ LeMahieu after a single, a stolen base and a throwing error.

A hit-by-pitch and two walks set up New York’s sixth-inning rally, with Judge lacing a two-out, two-run single -- his third hit of the afternoon -- and Torres flaring a two-run bloop into shallow left-center field.

“Everybody is getting better,” Torres said. “We’re taking advantage of every opportunity the other team gives us. The first couple of weeks, we lost too many opportunities on base. As a group, we’re more confident right now.”

Slamming the door
Left-hander Justin Wilson permitted two runs in the seventh and Niko Goodrum hit a solo homer off right-hander Chad Green in the eighth, trimming what had been a five-run Yankees lead.

Aroldis Chapman protected the advantage by striking out two men in a terrific seven-pitch ninth, nailing down his fifth save in as many opportunities. The Yankees would return to the .500 mark with a win on Sunday.

“We want to be way beyond .500,” Judge said. “We’re going to continue to try not only to win series, but we want to dominate series.”