Sunday, June 19, 2016

Taillon takes on Cubs in followup to first-win gem

Right-hander Jameson Taillon, coming off a dominant performance in only his second Major League start, will throw for the Pirates against the Cubs on Sunday at Wrigley Field with a chance to add to his legend.
Filling in for an injured Gerrit Cole on Tuesday at Citi Field, Taillon was exceptional. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 Draft and a top prospect set back by Tommy John surgery and a hernia operation, Taillon carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Mets and scattered two hits over eight scoreless innings for his first big league win. Plenty of celebration ensued for Taillon, a dual citizen whose parents were born in Canada.
"We got a few cold beverages and brought him into the shower because we didn't want to get the carpet wet and doused him," Cole said. "Jared Hughes gave us a nice, solid baritone line of 'O Canada' and we sung it, 25 in unison."
The Cubs have had the Pirates' number so far this season, holding a 7-1 edge in the season series as they shoot for a three-game sweep Sunday, but Pittsburgh has a chance to change that with its top young arm on the mound. Taillon already halted a five-game Pirates losing streak with his latest start.
"On a personal level, it was unbelievable to watch," Cole said. "I would like to say there was nobody as excited as I was, but I'd say he probably was more excited than I was. ... He's an unbelievable dude. What a professional. Let's not forget the [five]-game slide we were in before that. That was huge for the team."
The Cubs, however, have become accustomed to having strong starting pitching regardless of who is on the mound. Their 2.32 ERA from starters is the best in the Majors.
Sunday, they will start right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who is 4-6 with a 3.05 ERA this season. At home this year, Hendricks is 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA.
"Everybody is talking about how well we're doing, run differential, all that stuff," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It's really controlled by those five [starting pitchers]. Our five guys have really set the tone for everything that's happened."
Things to know about this game
• Sunday could mark the first Major League start for Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. Contreras made his Major League debut in the ninth inning Friday, but Maddon said Contreras will make his first start either Sunday or Monday.
• Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is two wins shy of 1,000 all-time managerial victories. He currently ranks sixth in Pirates history with 464 wins as a manager.
• Pirates closer Mark Melancon, the lone steady presence in an up-and-down Pittsburgh bullpen, has converted each of his last 15 save opportunities dating back to April 27. He has 70 saves since the beginning of last season, the most in Major League Baseball.

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