TORONTO -- Marcus Stroman pitched eight innings without allowing an earned run, but the Pirates countered with a strong start from Jameson Taillon and capitalized on several Blue Jays mistakes in the third inning to capture a 4-2 win Friday night at Rogers Centre. For the first time since the morning of July 25, the Bucs are back at .500.
"That's what you do against good pitchers like that. They gave us a crack," said Pirates bench coach/acting manager Tom Prince. "We took advantage of it. Guys put a couple hits together. Bell ends up with the sac fly at the end. Then you hold on from there, because [Stroman] pitched good throughout the game."
The Pirates have won seven of their last nine games, climbing back to .500 and remaining three games behind the National League Central-leading Cubs, who beat the D-backs on Friday. Milwaukee's loss to Cincinnati on Friday means Pittsburgh is tied for third in the division.
Stroman stifled the Pirates' bats for most of the night, allowing four hits and striking out four, but Pittsburgh broke out for four runs in the third inning due mostly to Toronto's own mistakes. Adam Frazier legged out a would-be double-play grounder to plate a run. Josh Harrison singled home another. Andrew McCutchen laced an RBI double off Kevin Pillar's glove before leaving with left knee discomfort, then Josh Bell finished the rally with a sacrifice fly to center field.
"I just did my best job to battle," Stroman said. "The defense has my back all year. They've made unbelievable plays for me all year. I felt like I should have done a better job in that situation of buckling down and getting my team out of that. Just a tough inning, but my stuff felt great."
The Pirates also needed Taillon to hold the line, and he delivered a quality start in front of family and friends attending the game in his parent's home country. Taillon held the Jays to two runs on six hits while striking out seven over six-plus innings.
"It was fun. Good environment," Taillon said. "Support was strong. … We flipped the lineup over pretty well the second time. [Catcher Francisco] Cervelli was great all night."
Taillon began the seventh inning with a two-run lead but quickly ran into trouble, as Ezequiel Carrera smacked a leadoff double to left and Ryan Goins singled up the middle. The Pirates called upon reliever George Kontos, their newest fireman, to extract them from the jam. Kontos recorded three quick outs without allowing a run and turned the game over to setup man Juan Nicasio and closer Felipe Rivero.
"I was pretty fired up. The adrenaline was definitely pumping," Kontos said. "I'm glad I was able to help Jamo out, get him out of that jam. He did a great job tonight, and I'm glad I was able to preserve the win for him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Damage control: The Blue Jays pushed Taillon to the brink in the second inning, loading the bases with one out on a walk sandwiched between a pair of singles. Toronto struck first, as Pillar smacked a sacrifice fly to center that brought home Justin Smoak, but Taillon responded by striking out Rob Refsnyder to end the inning.
"It was a tough night for him," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Refsnyder, who struck out in all four of his at-bats. "Nobody feels worse than him, but that's the way it goes sometimes."
Replay reversal: The Pirates' four-run third inning turned on a critical replay review. With Francisco Cervelli at first base and John Jaso at third, Frazier hit a hard grounder down the third-base line. Josh Donaldson stopped the ball and made a quick turn and throw to Refsnyder at second base. Cervelli was ruled out at second, but Frazier beat the throw to first to break up the double play. Tom Prince, the Pirates' acting manager, challenged the call at second base, which was overturned, as Refsnyder did not touch the bag at any point while attempting to turn the double play. Cervelli was ruled safe and came around to score on Harrison's single.
Prince credited third-base coach Joey Cora and video coordinator Kevin Roach for spotting the play at second base, then praised Pittsburgh's hitters for capitalizing on the opportunity.
"They just stuck with the game," Prince said.
"It was fun. We enjoyed that. … Looking forward to Clint [Hurdle] getting back."-- Prince, after receiving a postgame water-cooler shower from right-hander Ivan Nova following his first win as acting manager
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Jose Bautista's home run gave him eight consecutive seasons of 20-plus home runs with the Blue Jays. Only Carlos Delgado has done that in more consecutive seasons, with nine from 1996-2004.
MARTIN EXITS AFTER THE 1ST
Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin exited the game with an injury after just one inning. The injury appeared to take place on a swing in the first inning. Martin did try to come out for the second inning, but he was removed after catching Stroman's warmup pitches. Martin will have an MRI on Saturday. More >
EARLY EXIT FOR CUTCH
McCutchen exited with left knee discomfort shortly after slicing an RBI double to right-center field. He remained at second when Bell hit a sacrifice fly to center. While taking a lead with David Freese at the plate, McCutchen grabbed his left knee and began limping toward the Pirates' dugout.
Stroman allowed his first runner of the game in the top of the third when a breaking pitch ran down and in on Jaso, hitting him in the foot. The Blue Jays challenged the call on the field as it appeared the ball may have bounced between Jaso's feet, but the call stood after a replay review.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Right-hander Trevor Williams will start for the Pirates as they continue their three-game series against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Saturday at 1:07 p.m. ET. Williams is coming off the best start of his career -- seven innings of one-hit ball against the Tigers on Monday -- and owns a 3.56 ERA over his past 16 starts.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Chris Rowley will make his MLB debut on Saturday afternoon. The West Point graduate missed the entire 2014 and '15 seasons and he served active duty in the United States Army, but he has posted a 2.29 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A this season.