Big young arms to square off in Pittsburgh

Big young arms to square off in Pittsburgh

Just a few weeks after a hot start, the Reds went cold and were left considering a brighter future. The Pirates hung around in contention through most of August but now find themselves in the same position as Cincinnati after three straight losses to the Cubs last week dashed any postseason hopes.

Accordingly, Saturday's game at PNC Park will provide a glimpse of what next year might hold for both teams when Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle takes the mound against Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon.

Saturday will mark the second Major League start for Mahle (which rhymes with "rally"), one of four rookies in the Reds' rotation and Cincinnati's No. 4 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. Taillon is more experienced but is considered a major building block of the 2018 Pirates.

Mahle, 22, threw a no-hitter last season for Class A Advanced Daytona and a perfect game this past April for Double-A Pensacola. His 3-4 record at Triple-A Louisville in 2017 was offset by a 2.73 ERA. In his first big league start, Sunday at home against the Pirates, he yielded three earned runs over five innings in a 5-2 loss.

"He fared a lot better than many in his debut," Reds manager Bryan Price said afterward.

The 25-year-old Taillon, who joined the Pirates in June 2016 after missing two full seasons with injuries, is scheduled to make his 39th big league start.

Taillon got off to a fast start in 2017 before missing five weeks resulting from testicular cancer surgery on May 8. He continued to pitch well after coming back, sporting a 3.08 ERA to go with a 6-3 record through July 20. But he has since fallen off dramatically, pitching to an 8.45 ERA in his last seven starts.

"He's got to sharpen up the command," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Three things to know about this game

• The 23 home runs by the Pirates' Josh Bell are tied with Chipper Jones' 1995 National League record for a rookie switch-hitter. The AL record of 27 is shared by Eddie Murray ('77) and Tony Clark ('96).

• Mahle was the 15th Red to start a game this season, which ties last year's total and is two shy of the club record. The Mariners lead MLB with 17 different starters this season.

• Taillon has issued 12 walks in his last three starts. Before that, he walked 11 in eight starts.

Bob Cohn is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.