Cubs’ Jameson Taillon showing improvement against lefties, despite grand slam

Taillon didn’t surrender a hit against the Tigers until the sixth inning Wednesday.

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Chicago Cubs pitcher Jameson Taillon throws against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, in Detroit.

Chicago Cubs pitcher Jameson Taillon throws against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, in Detroit.

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DETROIT — Cubs starter Jameson Taillon’s cutter to the Tigers’ Kerry Carpenter wasn’t a bad pitch. It stayed low and crossed the plate on the inside third of the strike zone. But it wasn’t quite where Taillon wanted it.

“Probably just a little more up,” Taillon said. “I think [catcher Yan Gomes] actually called it up and in. And we know he’s feeling really good up there right now. He was probably going to be aggressive and look to do damage with runners on. So it’s one of those things where, you obviously never want to walk a guy, but maybe just be a little more careful right there.”

Carpenter drove it to right field for a game-tying grand slam, which served as the last impression of Taillon’s otherwise dominant outing in the 6-4 victory Wednesday against the Tigers.

“Jamo threw a phenomenal game,” manager David Ross said. “Had one bad inning.”

Taillon’s start, despite the grand slam, was an example of the strides he has taken, particularly against lefties this season.

Over the course of his career, Taillon’s platoon splits haven’t been a cause for concern. But when he was struggling early in the year, left-handed hitters were doing damage against him. Opposing teams caught on and started stacking their lineups with lefties.

On Wednesday, the Tigers’ starting lineup included five left-handed hitters. But Taillon only allowed one baserunner through the first five innings. He generated whiffs with high four-seam fastballs and curveballs that broke toward left-handed hitters’ back feet.

“There was a point earlier in the year where I didn’t really have those pitches available to me, I was just kind of struggling with them,” Taillon said. “And I thought today they were good, and they’ve been getting better for a little while. When I’m pitching really well, that’s what it looks like, and that’s what it feels like.”

Taillon didn’t allow a hit until the first batter of the sixth inning. Then he gave up three straight.

“Started out with an 0-2 hit, which I never like,” Taillon said. “And I thought I got my ground ball, and it found a way through the hole.”

Next, Akil Baddoo got a hold of a changeup to load the bases.

Taillon almost got out of the jam. He struck out Riley Greene and induced Spencer Torkelson to fly out. Then, Carpenter walked up to the plate.

Taillon had already struck out Carpenter twice. The third time they faced each other, Taillon fell behind in the count 3-1.

“I don’t anticipate getting a swing behind in the count on a curveball or a fastball up,” Taillon said. “So that’s something I’m already processing. If I had just gotten a better count there. I could have gone to one of those strengths.”

Close call

The Cubs’ last eight games have been decided by one or two runs. They’ve gone 5-3 in that stretch.

Gomes, who drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning Wednesday, said the team would rather win by a more comfortable margin.

“But once it comes down to the last couple of innings, I feel like it’s what good teams do: just try to give ourselves a chance out there,” Gomes said. “It’s great because we’re not all winning by the big home runs. We’ve had some big home runs come through, but we single our way into some runs, walk our way into some runs and then sacrifice, and so it works out.”

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