Over the first two-plus months of the regular season, Jameson Taillon was pitching like an ace.
Every five days, the right-hander took the baseball and went deep into ballgames, consistently limiting opponents to fewer than three earned runs.
After two consecutive gems against the Rays and Angels, flirting with a perfect game against Los Angeles, Taillon had a 2.30 ERA on the season.
Since then, however, it's been a much bumpier road for the 30-year-old starter.
Factoring in his performance against the Pirates on Tuesday night—allowing five earned runs on six hits in a 5-2 loss to his former team—Taillon has now permitted 21 earned runs to score in his last six outings and 30.2 innings pitched (raising his ERA on the season to 3.63).
He hasn't pitched more than 5.2 innings during this six-start stretch, going just 5.1 frames on Tuesday.
"Obviously it's concerning," Taillon told reporters Tuesday night in the visitor's clubhouse. "I need to figure it out and make a change. It's a results-oriented league, but at the same time, I feel healthy, I feel like I'm making a lot of quality pitches, but I'm getting burned it seems like every outing on a couple of pitches with runners on especially. I don't want to go change anything drastic, but it's probably also time to go peel it back a little bit and see what's going on."
Take out two mistake pitches on Tuesday night and Taillon's outing is a different story. In the second, the right-hander left a full-count heater right over the heart of the plate and Daniel Vogelbach didn't miss it, sending a solo homer over the wall in right.
Three innings later, a full-count changeup from Taillon caught enough of the plate where Jack Suwinski was able to get good wood on it, smacking a two-run shot to center.
Taillon added that his inability to find his four-seam fastball—against a lineup with eight left-handed hitters—on Tuesday was a huge issue. You can tell from his breakdown that he wasn't comfortable with his five-pitch arsenal. Taillon threw all but one of his offerings 17-plus times, clearly searching for which one was going to get him outs. Of those 94 pitches, only seven resulted in whiffs. Interestingly, he didn't throw his sinker one time.
Digesting Taillon's start and his recent skid, Yankees manager Aaron Boone singled out mistake pitches. Taillon's command when it comes to walking batters has been elite. He leads the league with a sparkling 1.11 walks per nine innings (he's only walked 11 batters all season). It's the meatballs over the plate, especially with runners on, that have been hurting him.
"Just a couple more mistakes in a game and tonight they hit it in the seats or for extra bases," Boone said. "Maybe just not quite as sharp with some command things, that usually is his calling card. But that's also the ebb and flow of the season too where that's gonna happen."
It's not time to panic with Taillon just yet. The right-hander reassured that he's healthy and eager to dive into the film, diagnosing what exactly has kept him from recapturing his early-season form.
Above all else, as his skipper alluded to, Taillon wants to limit extra base hits with runners on. Solo home runs usually can't beat you—especially when you play for a club with a high-octane offense that also hits the ball out of the ballpark. It's the home runs with runners on that will.
"You can go peel back all the layers, look at how every pitch is performing and go look at where my strengths are," he said. "I can look at different sides of the plate where the slugs coming from. I'll peel it all back and see what we got."
Taillon's next scheduled start falls on Sunday Night Baseball at Fenway Park against the Red Sox. Let's see if the right-hander can make some tweaks before then, finding a way to settle back into a groove.
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