Pirates spoil Taillon’s return to Pittsburgh, top Yanks 5-2

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PITTSBURGH – Bill Mazeroski threw out the first pitch. David Bednar froze one of the most feared hitters in baseball with the last.

In between, the Pittsburgh Pirates offered a fleeting glimpse of what they’re trying to build, one that came at the expense of an old friend and briefly cooled off the hottest team in the majors.

Rookie outfielder Jack Suwinski hit his 14th home run, Daniel Vogelbach added his 11th and the Pirates spoiled Jameson Taillon‘s return to PNC Park with a 5-2 win over the New York Yankees on Tuesday night.

The Pirates played a short tribute video for Taillon – who spent more than a decade with the organization before being traded to New York in January 2021 – as he walked to the mound. “When The Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin blared as Taillon warmed up, just as it had for home starts made by the popular right-hander during his four seasons in Pittsburgh’s rotation.

Taillon called running out of the visitors’ dugout a little weird, though nearly 18 months removed from the trade that sent him to New York in exchange for a handful of prospects for a club in a top-to-bottom reset, he wasn’t exactly overcome with emotion. His bigger concern was trying to figure out a way to navigate Pittsburgh’s left-handed-heavy lineup.

He didn’t fare as well as he liked. Vogelbach hit a laser over the right-field wall leading off the second and Suwinski flicked a ball into the first row of seats in center field that scored two runs as Taillon (9-2) took his first loss since April 11.

Despite his stellar won-loss record, Taillon’s ERA over his last six starts is north of 5.00. Even with the Yankees cruising atop the AL East with the All-Star break looming, Taillon is wary.

“It’s a results-oriented league,” he said. “But at the same time, I feel healthy and I feel like I’m making a lot of quality pitches, but it seems I’m getting burned every outing on just a couple of pitches.”

Jose Quintana (2-4) held New York in check for five innings and Pittsburgh’s bullpen did the rest. Bednar worked the ninth for his 13th save – striking out Aaron Judge looking with a runner on to end it – as the Pirates sent the Yankees to consecutive losses for just the fifth time this season.

Pittsburgh leaned into a rare visit by the Yankees, whose first appearance at PNC Park since 2017 produced the first sellout of the season at a ballpark that is typically more than half-empty most nights. Fans caught a glimpse of a lineup that included promising rookies like Suwinski and shortstop Oneil Cruz, and a gritty effort by Quintana.

The veteran left-hander, brought in on a one-year deal in the offseason, retired the Yankees in order just once but struck out seven.

“He just competes,” Vogelbach said. “You can just feel it from him, that he’s never out of the count, never out of the inning. He’s always one pitch away. That rubs off on you. That makes you want to make a play behind him and makes you want to score runs for him.”

A FULL HOUSE

Mazeroski, who hit the clinching home run in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series against the Yankees at Forbes Field, tossed the ceremonial first pitch. The crowd roared as the 85-year-old waved, setting the tone for a night that felt as if there was something at stake for two teams separated by more than 25 games in the standings.

HALFWAY HOME

New York reached the season’s midway point at 58-23, the best record in the majors by a significant margin and well ahead of the club’s pace last year, when the Yankees slogged to a 41-40 mark through the first 81 games.

New York rallied to make the playoffs a year ago. That likely won’t be required this time around, not with the Yankees entering the day leading the AL East by a staggering 13 games.

Still, New York’s blistering pace has cooled a bit of late with the All-Star break approaching. The Yankees are 2-3 halfway through their four-city road trip that wraps up in Boston this weekend.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa had three hits for New York. Gleyber Torres and Matt Carpenter added two apiece. Judge went 1 for 5, grounding into an inning-ending double-play with two runners on in the seventh and striking out in the ninth, symbolic of a night when the Yankees left nine men on.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: 1B Anthony Rizzo was scratched an hour before the first pitch with lower back tightness. DJ LeMahieu filled in for Rizzo at first. … RHP Domingo German (right shoulder) will make at least one more rehab start before the team makes a decision on when he might be activated off the 60-day injured list. Manager Aaron Boone said German “looked good” and he is “encouraged” by German’s progress. … RHP Miguel Castro (paternity leave/restricted list) could rejoin the team on Wednesday.

UP NEXT

New York’s Luis Severino (4-3, 3.35 ERA) will try to pick up his first win in a month when he faces Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller (2-5, 5.14) on Wednesday. Keller has allowed three runs or fewer in five of his last six starts following a brief stint in the bullpen.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.