Pirates starter Jameson Taillon gets the ball tonight against the Astros’ Doug Fister in a 7:05 PM EDT start at PNC Park. Taillon has been on a roll since coming off of the disabled list shortly after the second half began. Over his last six starts, he has a 2.37 ERA with a 31/4 K/BB ratio in 38 innings.
Taillon had been on the disabled list since late June due to fatigue in his right shoulder. The 24-year-old also missed the 2014-15 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Understandably, the Pirates plan to limit Taillon’s innings. He has crossed 100 pitches only twice in 11 starts. And with 66 major league innings and 61 2/3 innings at Triple-A, Taillon is close to his professional career-high of 147 1/3 in 2013.
The Pirates, however, are balancing that with a run at the National League Wild Card. They are only three games out of the second Wild Card slot, currently held by the Cardinals, and 4.5 back of the Giants who hold the first slot presently. Do the Pirates play it safe and potentially concede the Wild Card race, or do they go for their third consecutive Wild Card berth and risk Taillon’s durability?
It’s not a perfect parallel, but the Nationals played it safe with Stephen Strasburg in 2012, refusing to let him pitch in the postseason — the franchise’s first postseason appearance since 1981 — despite putting up a 3.16 ERA during the regular season. Strasburg sat out and the Nationals lost the NLDS to the Cardinals in five games. The Nationals received a lot of criticism for the decision, but Strasburg made 30 starts in 2013 and 34 starts in ’14. He was hampered by a benign growth on his back last year and then was placed on the DL with an elbow issue today. No one can say for sure, but if the Nationals pushed Strasburg for potentially 20-30 postseason innings that year, he might not have become the pitcher he is today. And that’s what the Pirates will have to consider with Taillon.
The rest of Monday’s action…
Washington Nationals (A.J. Cole) @ Baltimore Orioles (Dylan Bundy), 7:05 PM EDT
Cleveland Indians (Carlos Carrasco) @ Oakland Athletics (Andrew Triggs), 10:05 PM EDT