By Will Graves
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — Bill Mazeroski kicked out the first pitch. David Bednar froze one of baseball’s most feared hitters with the last one.
In between, the Pittsburgh Pirates offered a glimpse of what they’re trying to build, one that came at the expense of an old friend and briefly chilled the majors’ hottest team.
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 Tuesday night with a 5-2 win over the New York Yankees.
The Pirates played a short tribute video for Taillon – who had spent more than a decade with the organization before being sold to New York in January 2021 – as he headed to the Hill. “When the dike breaks” by Led Zeppelin smashed as Taillon warmed up, just like the home starts the popular right-hander made during his four seasons in Pittsburgh’s rotation.
Taillon called it a little strange running out of the visitors’ dugout despite being nearly 18 months away from the deal that sent him to New York in a top-to-bottom reset in exchange for a handful of prospects for a club , he wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with emotion. His bigger concern was trying to find a way to navigate Pittsburgh’s left-handed lineup.
He wasn’t doing as well as he wanted. Vogelbach slammed a laser over the right field wall that led to second, and Suwinski flicked a ball into the front row of midfield seats that scored two runs as Taillon (9-2) suffered their first loss since April 11 .
Despite his outstanding win-loss record, Taillon’s ERA is north of 5.00 in his last six starts. Even as the Yankees cruise the AL East with the All-Star break looming, Taillon is cautious.
“It’s a result-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 like I burn myself into just a few pitches on every outing.”
Jose Quintana (2-4) held New York at bay for five innings and Pittsburgh’s bullpen did the rest. Bednar worked the ninth for his 13th save – beating Aaron Judge, who was looking at it with a runner to finish it – than the Pirates sent the Yankees to defeats for the fifth straight season this season.
Pittsburgh saw a rare visit from the Yankees, whose first appearance at PNC Park since 2017 resulted in the first sell-out of the season at a ballpark that’s typically more than half-empty most nights. Fans got a glimpse of a line-up that included promising rookies like Suwinski and shortstop Oneil Cruz, as well as a brave performance from Quintana.
The veteran left-hander, who signed a one-year deal in the offseason, eliminated the Yankees only once in the run but beat out seven.
“He’s just competing” said Vogelbach. “You can just tell from him that he’s never out of the count, never out of the inning. He’s always one seat away. That rubs off on you. That makes you want to play behind him and score runs for him.”
A FULL HOUSE
Mazeroski, who hit the crucial last-ninth-place home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series against the Yankees at Forbes Field, threw the ceremonial first pitch. The crowd roared as the 85-year-old waved and set the tone for a night that felt like something was at stake for two teams separated by more than 25 games in the standings.
New York went halfway through the season 58-23, their best record in the majors by a wide margin and well ahead of the club’s pace last year when the Yankees plodded to a 41-40 mark in their first 81 games.
New York teamed up a year ago to make the playoffs. That probably won’t be necessary this time, not as the Yankees lead the day with an incredible 13 games leading the AL East.
Still, the frenetic pace in New York has cooled somewhat of late as the All-Star break approaches. The Yankees are 2-3 halfway through their four-city road trip, concluding in Boston this weekend.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa had three goals for New York. Gleyber Torres and Matt Carpenter each added two. The judge went 1 to 5 and landed in a double play at the end of the innings with two runners in the seventh and a batter in the ninth, symbolic of a night the Yankees left nine men.
Yankees: 1B Anthony Rizzo was scratched by a tension in his lower back an hour before the first pitch. DJ LeMahieu initially stood in for Rizzo. … RHP Domingo German (right shoulder) will make at least one more rehab start before the team makes a decision on when he could be activated from the 60-day injured list. Manager Aaron Boone said German “looks good” and he is “encouraged” by the advance of the Germans. … RHP Miguel Castro (paternity leave/blacklist) could rejoin the team on Wednesday.
New York’s Luis Severino (4-3, 3.35 ERA) will look for his first win in a month when he takes on Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller (2-5, 5.14) on Wednesday. Keller has allowed three runs or fewer in five of his last six starts after a short stint in the bullpen.