Taillon announces arrival by flirting with history
Pirates rookie notches 1st MLB win after 'long journey' of overcoming injuries
By Joshua Needelman
NEW YORK -- The ball was stained with red, a permanent reminder of a historic night that hardly seemed possible in recent years. It sat on a ledge in the locker of Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon, who flirted with history en route to his first career win Tuesday night, a 4-0 Pittsburgh victory over the Mets.
Six days removed from his first Major League start, five days after he was sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis and months after recovering from his second season-ending injury in as many years, Taillon took a no-hitter into the seventh inning at Citi Field. He didn't get it; a grounder from Curtis Granderson sneaked through the middle of a pair of outstretched gloves to start the seventh. But, after leaving with eight scoreless innings of two-hit ball in the books, he was the thankful recipient of a Gatorade shower.
"It was cold," said Taillon, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, selected between Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Manny Machado of the Orioles. "I've seen a lot of college football coaches get those. I guess I've always wondered how it felt. And I got one."
After making his debut against the Mets last week, questions arose surrounding the rookie's ability to pitch effectively against a team he had faced so recently. He pitched well last Wednesday -- allowing just three runs in six innings -- but familiarity sometimes benefits the offense.
That wasn't the case Tuesday. Not at all. Through six innings, Taillon had allowed two baserunners -- on a walk and a hit-by-pitch. He was rolling.
"After the first inning, we said jokingly, 'Well he hasn't gotten ahead of anybody and he's on pace to throw 54 pitches,'" manager Clint Hurdle said. "Just a dugout joke, to keep things loose. Then by the fourth inning, I said, 'Well, he's not far off that pace."
Granderson, the Mets' No. 3 hitter, led off the seventh. He ripped a 1-2 curveball toward the right side of the infield.
Shortstop Jordy Mercer dove to his left. Second baseman Josh Harrison dove to his right. The Pirates were in a shift, a measure of precaution for this exact type of scenario.
Mercer lunged first, and then Harrison. Both extended their limbs. Yet the ball sneaked through anyway, leaving the pair of middle infielders sprawled across the field as Granderson reached first base safely.
"That was the loudest I've ever heard a stadium be. And that doesn't really bother me," Taillon said. "I kind of had a moment -- I just took a step back and had a rookie moment. It's pretty cool -- I get to be here, I get to have these fans being loud, it doesn't rattle me."
"One of the first comments he made after the game was, 'Pressure is a privilege,'" Hurdle said.
Mercer said he turned around and looked at the scoreboard after the play. He noticed both he and Harrison were "half a step" away.
"Sometimes it just doesn't work," Mercer said.
For the first time all night, Citi Field erupted. With a runner on first and only a two-run deficit, the Mets had hope. But then Taillon forced Yoenis Cespedes into a double play and Kelly Johnson into an inning-ending grounder.
He gave up another hit in the eighth, before retiring to the dugout for good.
It had been a "whirlwind" week for Taillon. After making his long-awaited Major League debut, he was quickly shuffled back to the Minors. But during Triple-A Indianapolis' game on Sunday, he learned he was coming back up. It had taken him six years after getting drafted to make the Majors.
"It was a long journey. Probably different than I could have imagined, but I'm here now," Taillon said. "I never lost confidence throughout the journey, throughout the six years. I always thought I would get here at some point."
Taillon said he's gotten close to a no-hitter once before. He had one into the sixth inning in Triple-A this year, until the opposing pitcher broke it up. But aside from that?
"Not in the big leagues," Taillon said. "It's a little different up here."
Joshua Needelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.