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.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Matt Olson knew the Atlanta Braves were too talented to stay in a season-long slump.

That’s why no one panicked when the New York Mets’ division lead swelled to double digits in May. Now the Braves are on the cusp of another NL East title.

“It’s a clubhouse full of guys who want to win,” Olson said. “That’s all it’s been since the moment I walked in. That’s No. 1 on the program.”

Dansby Swanson and Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Braves beat New York 5-3 on Sunday night, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closes out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

“We’ve felt this confidence since the beginning of the year,” d’Arnaud said. “It just didn’t go our way early in the year, but pulling on the same rope, having each others’ backs, not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to play the game of baseball and have fun with it.”

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We still have three games left in the regular season, we’re still going to the postseason, that doesn’t change, but there’s a lot of learning points that we can take from this series moving forward,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said. “I thought we played well, but the Braves played better. They played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

“Everyone knew we were underperforming when we were flirting around that .500 range,” Olson said. “It was one of those things where it was trusting the talent we have and the guys in the clubhouse. Everybody was solid, head down, do your work, it’ll turn around and you wind up winning.”

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).