For all intents and purposes, Jameson Taillon started off last night looking like the same pitcher that the Pirates sent to the disabled list a few weeks ago with shoulder fatigue. That’s a good thing, of course; Taillon was coming off of one of his best starts in Seattle, and no one was really sure if he was hurt or just tired enough that the Pirates wanted to protect their best interests and use the All-Star Break to their advantage. When Taillon came out hitting 94-95 with his fastball and throwing his same nasty curve, it looked a lot like the answer was the one about fatigue and the Pirates being cautious.
And then he got hit in the head.
You’ve likely seen or heard or read all about it by now, but with one out in the second, Taillon took a 105 mph line drive from Hernan Perez off of the back of his head. Taillon fell to the ground, but got up and returned to the game after a short consultation with the Pirates’ doctor and trainer.
This is a lot to digest; Taillon didn’t lose consciousness and the decision on the mound to keep him in the game seemed to be pretty obviously made by the trainers/doctor out there and not the coaching staff. Still, a 105 mph line drive off of the head is a 105 mph line drive off of the head, and it’s hard to think that the staff could’ve said much beyond that he didn’t obviously have a concussion or head injury. That is technically enough by the wording of the MLB concussion protocol (a player only requires further evaluation if there is “sign and/or symptom” of concussion after the on-field incident), but, I don’t know. The risk/reward for keeping a guy that just took a 105 mph blunt force trauma to the back of his head in the game seems awfully skewed in the direction opposite of the one that the Pirates went in last night. The Pirates have said they’ll make the trainers available to the media today, so I’m sure we’ll learn more this afternoon.
Taillon pitched pretty well after the incident, going six innings and holding the Brewers to one run and preserving the 2-0 lead he’d been handed in the first inning (that came from a succession of walks and hits from Gregory Polanco, Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and David Freese, plus a sac fly from Francisco Cervelli). After the game, both Taillon and Clint Hurdle said that they thought Taillon’s command was a bit off after the incident (specifically that he was leaving balls up in the zone), but to Taillon’s credit, he didn’t walk anyone. In addition to that one run and no walks, his final line included five hits and three strikeouts.
That looked like it’d be enough for a win until Mark Melancon blew his second straight after whittling the opponents down to their final strike. This time a single from the aforementioned Hernan Perez drove Ryan Braun home and put runners on second and third after Andrew McCutchen’s millionth ill-advised throw of the past two seasons. Melancon escaped from there, which allowed Josh Harrison to drive a fly ball off of the base of the wall in center field and score when his attempt to stretch the hit into a triple drew a bad throw from Scooter Gennett that skipped out of play.
These two straight wins that have bailed Mark Melancon out have been important wins; the Pirates are embarking on a Brewers/Phillies/Mariners/Brewers/Braves/Reds/Padres stretch that is a huge opportunity to put June behind them, and leaving wins on the table in this stretch really isn’t an option if the team wants to put themselves back into the heart of the NL playoff race.
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