PITTSBURGH — Jameson Taillon let a lead get away in his last start.
This time, he had the answer when he got in trouble.
Taillon struck out a career-high 10 to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night.
“You don’t want to live and die by the strikeout, but whenever you need it, you definitely want to be able to get it,” Taillon said. “I felt like I got some pretty big ones in big spots. Those are the ones where it was cool.”
Taillon (6-7) surrendered one run on four hits with two walks in six innings. The right-hander struck out the side twice, once in the third inning and again in the fifth, when he got out of a jam after allowing a leadoff walk to Tyler Saladino followed by a single from Erik Kratz.
“I thought his slider and curveball were very good tonight,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
In his last start, Taillon allowed a 2-0 lead to slip away to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Jordy Mercer made sure a lack of run support wouldn’t spoil another solid outing from Taillon. He tied a career high with four RBIs and went 3-for-4 with three singles, one of which knocked in two runs.
Pittsburgh’s 6-7-8 hitters of Josh Bell, Josh Harrison and Mercer finished a combined 5-for-7 with five RBIs and five walks.
The Pirates have won four of their past five games to pull to 10½ games back of the first-place Brewers, who have lost four of six, in the NL Central.
Felipe Vazquez earned his 21st save by getting the final two outs. Michael Feliz allowed Eric Thames to cut the Pirates’ lead to 6-2 with a single up the middle before Christian Yelich made it 6-3 with a single off Vazquez. Jesus Aguilar hit into a double play to end it.
“I think the small solace is that you get Vazquez in the game and make him throw,” Counsell said. “Hopefully, if that can impact the rest of the series, maybe that’s a good thing.”
Wade Miley (1-1) gave up two runs on four hits in five innings with five strikeouts and five walks for Milwaukee.
“I’m just excited to be back out there,” Miley said. “I would’ve liked to go a little deeper in the game, but it is what it is. You have to start somewhere.”
Miley allowed two two-out RBI singles to Mercer that put Pittsburgh ahead 2-1. Mercer’s first opened the scoring in the second when he drove a ball down the left-field line, scoring David Freese. Aguilar tied it at 1 with a home run, his 24th, to left-center field in the fourth.
Mercer gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead when he lined a single off Saladino’s glove and into left field to drive in Bell in the fourth. He made it 4-1 in the sixth with a two-run single, driving in Bell and Harrison, and scored on a two-out single to right from Starling Marte. Harrison, who was 2-for-2 with two walks, made it 6-1 with a double to left in the seventh.
Jeffress an All-Star
After the game, it was announced that Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress was named to his first All-Star team.
Jeffress is 6-1 with an 0.99 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 45ª innings. He replaces Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, who is on the disabled list.
Jeffress joins Aguilar, Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Josh Hader to give the Brewers a franchise-record five All-Stars.
“It’s a powerful statement, for sure,” Counsell said.
The Brewers optioned infielder Nate Orf and reliever Jorge Lopez to Class AAA Colorado Springs.
Starter Freddy Peralta was sent to Class A Wisconsin and infielder Eric Sogard was released.
Junior Guerra (6-5, 2.79) could win a fourth straight start when he faces the Pirates on Friday. In his past three starts, Guerra has surrendered a combined five runs, including one in his past two starts.
On the mound for the Pirates will be Nick Kingham (3-4, 4.26), who allowed one run on four hits with five strikeouts, and had two RBIs, in a 4-1 win over the Phillies on Sunday.