Jameson Taillon and Neil Walker lead Curve to Mother’s Day victory
The Altoona Curve defeated the Richmond Squirrels in walk-off fashion earlier today 2-1. After second baseman Neil Walker tied the score with an RBI single in the eighth inning, Andrew Lambo walked and eventually came around to score from second when pinch-hitter Charlie Cutler hit a line drive to deep center that centerfielder Jarrett Parker couldn’t hold on to. Jameson Taillon got the start and impressed, pitching six scoreless innings, and allowing no runs with eight strikeouts in the no decision outing. All told, the Curve pitchers only allowed two hits in the game.
Taillon shows full repertoire in six solid innings of work
Jameson Taillon improved his ERA to 2.82 today by throwing six innings of shutout baseball. He surrendered only 2 hits, walking 3, and striking out 8. The only downside of Taillon’s effort was a bit of trouble with control, throwing 100 pitches and only registering 59 strikes in the outing. Nonetheless, he was able to overmatch many of the Squirrels hitters today, and on the season he has 47 strikeouts in 44 innings of work. Some of the control issues came from a heavy dose of change-ups and two-seam fastballs, which we haven’t seen as much of from the tall Texan this season.
Taillon more frequently started batters with his two-seam fastball than in previous outings. The pitch was 89-92 mph, and it has enough arm-side run to move off the barrel, leading to a high groundball rate when contact is made.
“The two-seam gets guys off my four-seam a little bit. Quicker outs, more groundballs, so that’s going to be a point of emphasis, throwing it and the change-up with conviction,” said Taillon.
As in the past, Taillon’s primary strikeout pitch today was his true 12-6 breaking ball. Up in the count, he was spinning the curve down into the dirt where Squirrel hitters were waving at it. By in large, he didn’t throw the curve in the strike zone very often today, which was by design.
“Today, I threw it mostly in counts where I wanted it in the dirt or outside. I can throw it for a strike when I need to, but that’s when guys start seeing it a little better,” said the heralded right-hander.
Taillon also used his change-up noticeably more today than previously, about 15 of his pitches. Thus far in AA, he’s been able to have success with his two fastballs and curveball, so he hasn’t needed to mix in the change too often to get outs.
“He understands that in order for him to become an overall great pitcher, he has to incorporate that into his repertoire. Whenever he can get a chance to go out there and use it, it’s going to benefit him in the long run,” said pitching coach Stan Kyles.
Even though Taillon had some issues with control today, I was very impressed with this outing, as he used his lesser two offerings with greater frequency. When the two-seamer is prominent early in counts, it can make his four-seam fastball, which was 94-97 mph today, play up since hitters can’t key in on it. He threw some of the four-seam higher up in the zone today, which may not have been intentional, but he can get away with it since hitters must respect the slower fastball with movement down in the zone.
It was also good to see more change-ups today. If he can develop an above average change-up, Taillon will have four good pitches and be an overall better pitcher as he progresses. Using his full repertoire will help Taillon to be a more complete pitcher vs. “just a thrower.”
“The change-up is just something that I have to work on. It’s the difference between being a number 3 or 4 in the big leagues and being a number 1,” said Taillon.
Neil Walker wraps up rehab stint in Altoona; ready to return to Pirates line-up
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker played all nine innings at second base today, getting at bats from both sides of the plate. He went 2-for-3 with two singles, an RBI, and a walk, playing a key part in the victory. In his four games in Altoona, the switch-hitter was 4-for-10 with a strikeout and RBI. He committed no errors at second base.
“I got some much needed at bats [in Altoona]. Hopefully, tomorrow I’ll be able to step right back in the line-up,” said Walker.
Walker had been out of game action for 13 days before joining the Curve on Thursday night, so he needed a few at bats to get his timing back. The rehab was a success, as Walker will now return to Pittsburgh for their series starting tomorrow against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Obviously, I don’t write the line-up card, but I’ll be ready to go,” said Walker.
**I heard some of the Curve players refer to Charlie Cutler as “Charlie Clutch-ler” after another impact at bat off the bench today. Cutler’s drive to centerfield was ruled an error because Parker had it in his glove, but it was nonetheless a well-hit ball that decided the game.
**Ethan Hollingsworth got the victory after pitching a scoreless ninth inning.
**Andrew Lambo walked and scored the winning run. Lambo has reached base in 32 of the 35 games he’s played in this season.
**Kelson Brown got the start at first base today, and played a big part in the win with a great diving play in the 6th inning. With two outs in the 6th and Joe Panik on second base, Brown gloved a hard hit grounder down the line and flipped to Taillon to end the inning and keep the Squirrels off the board.
Follow me on twitter @John_Eshleman.