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Jameson Taillon rises from the depths with less predictable mix of pitches

Jameson Taillon of the New York Yankees pitches

Jameson Taillon of the New York Yankees pitches during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, July 18, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It would be easy to get caught up in the Scranton Several who played big roles in the Yankees’ 9-1 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday night, which paved the way to a much-needed series win.

Ryan LaMarre, Greg Allen and Trey Amburgey, who suffered a hamstring injury in the game, comprised the starting outfield, with LaMarre and Allen combining to go 3-for-5 with a homer, three RBIs and four runs.

But the most significant part of the night, from the long-term perspective of the Yankees’ ability to make a second-half charge for a playoff berth, was the performance of starting pitcher Jameson Taillon.

The righthander, whom the Yankees acquired from the Pirates in January, allowed four hits and struck out three in 5 1⁄3 scoreless innings.

Taillon improved to 5-4 with a 4.60 ERA, which at first glance are not especially impressive numbers. But consider where he was on June 12. That afternoon, Taillon lasted one-third of an inning in an 8-7 loss to the Phillies, allowing four runs and five hits, which ballooned his ERA to 5.74.

"It’s embarrassing. It’s humiliating," Taillon quietly said afterward.

He proceeded to do something about it.

In six starts since that dreadful Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, Taillon is 4-0 with a 2.86 ERA, including 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA in his last three starts.

Taillon, who underwent the second Tommy John surgery of his career in August 2019, and manager Aaron Boone said the start in Philadelphia was the turning point.

"I made a couple of changes," Taillon said. "Started doing the two-seam [fastball] more, started throwing my curveball more aggressively, started throwing from the windup."

"I think it caused him to add to his repertoire a little bit and get a little more versatile," Boone said, "and we’re seeing him now incorporate a number of pitches. Early on it was a lot of four-seam [fastballs] at the top and curveball off of that. We’re seeing him mix in the two-seam now, we’re seeing him mix in changeup and slider to still go along with the four-seam that he’s featuring and the curveball.

"So he’s just a lot less predictable and a lot more versatile on the mound and he’s pounding the strike zone, and I think he’s just into the rhythm of the season. I’m really excited about where he’s at."

Taillon — 34-28 with a 3.82 ERA in his major-league career, including 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA with the Pirates in 2018, his last full healthy season — indicated the changes were inspired by personal pride.

"All of that was done with the idea of like . . . I thought I was just putting my foot down after a really bad start," he said. "I knew that wasn’t the pitcher that I was deep down. I knew I had a lot more to offer than what I was offering. So I was just at that point looking for little baby steps. I went out and had a pretty decent start against the A’s back then. That kind of just started building things."

Taillon allowed two runs and four hits in 4 2⁄3 innings against the Athletics on June 18.

The one major hiccup in the six-game stretch was June 29 against the Angels, when he allowed five runs and nine hits in 5 1⁄3 innings.

But three straight good starts followed, counting Sunday’s against a loaded Red Sox lineup.

"My last couple of starts, the offense put up a ridiculous amount of runs for me," he said. "So that has just allowed for me to feel really free out there and just compete and challenge guys. I mean, we’re still not all the way there, but I thought [Sunday] I didn’t have my best stuff by any means and I was able to keep the team with the lead when I left. And that’s a big deal."

Jameson Taillon hit rock bottom when he couldn’t get out of the first inning of a June 12 start in Philadelphia. He’s been a different pitcher since that game, which was his 12th start of the season.

FIRST 12 STARTS LAST 6 STARTSW-L 1-44-0

ERA 5.742.86

INNINGS 53 2⁄3 34 1⁄3

HITS 5629

EARNED RUNS 3411

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