Jameson Taillon may look like he's all business on the mound, but the 6-foot-6 right-hander has found a little extra motivation when it comes to his favorite statistic.
"Hitters in the pros are a lot harder to strike out, and that Harrisburg lineup is solid," Taillon said Friday after his second start of the season. "Guys take pride in not striking out, so it makes it fun to go at them and try to strike them out."
To that end, Taillon enjoyed his fifth career Double-A start, striking out a career-high 10 batters over six innings. A lack of run support saddled him with the loss, however, in the Altoona Curve's 4-0 setback against the visiting Harrisburg Senators.
"Pretty much everything was working for me tonight," the Pirates' No. 2 prospect said. "I was using the four-seamer to get ahead early and I put them away with the curve. The second time around the lineup, I was throwing some first-pitch curveballs, second-pitch curves, mixing it up a little. If I fell behind, I'd throw in a curve, just kind of keeping them off-balance. And I had a couple good changeups."
Taillon, MLB.com's No. 15 overall prospect, held the Senators to a pair of runs on five hits and three walks while throwing 96 pitches. His mistakes, he said, came on two-seam fastballs that ran too far over the heart of the plate.
"Their guy threw well. He was keeping the ball down, getting ahead, mixing his pitches, keeping our guys off-balance," Taillon said of Senators counterpart Caleb Clay, who allowed four hits over six frames for his first win. "I'm not really surprised, he threw well. I think nine out 10 of our guys will hit the ball well, we've got a great lineup. But I didn't help much."
Harrisburg got to Taillon in the third when Brian Goodwin, the Nationals' second-ranked prospect, hit a two-out double and scored on Jose Lozada's single to left. Steven Souza drilled a one-out homer in the fourth to put Taillon in line for his first loss since Aug. 9, 2012 while with Class A Advanced Bradenton.
"I fell behind on one of them, one was a first pitch, kind of an ambush hack, but they were both two-seamers outside that ran back down the middle," he said. "They put good swings on them and made me pay for my mistakes."
Taillon was otherwise pretty dominant. He struck out two in a 1-2-3 first and worked around Souza's one-out double in the second, fanning two more in the process. He whiffed Clay to start a perfect fifth and struck out Destin Hood and Jeff Howell to end the sixth after issuing a pair of walks.
"I felt good, felt strong," Taillon said. "The last strikeout was the best fastball coming out of my hand all night. They were pretty competitive walks, they were all real close pitches on 3-2 counts. [Nationals top prospect Anthony] Rendon and Souza, I wasn't going to let those guys beat me."
Taillon said he read scouting reports on both Rendon and Goodwin before the game but typically goes with his gut when he's on the mound.
Taillon's first two starts | Full Stats »
"I was talking to my [pitching] coach, we had a general idea how we'd want to attack them," Taillon explained. "But I don't like scouting reports -- when it comes down to it, it comes down to my gut, whatever I feel. I see what the hitter does and I throw my pitches and keep going from there."
The 21-year-old righty, Pittsburgh's top pick in the 2010 Draft, held Erie scoreless over five innings in his season debut last week. In two starts, Taillon has 14 strikeouts and four walks in 11 innings.
"Overall, it was a good outing, definitely a bunch of positives to take from it," he said. "There's a couple things I'm going to take into my side sessions in my bullpen day, but it feels good to go six for the first time this year."
Taillon, who appeared in three Double-A games last summer, made one start for the Pirates in Spring Training, striking out three and allowing one run over two innings. He said the experience helped prepare him to start his third Minor League season.
"Getting up here last year was big from a confidence standpoint," he said. "Getting familiar with how it works, it allowed me to come in and do my thing, stay confident, attack, go at them. And at the end of the day, it's not any different than pitching at any other level, so it's working out so far."
Taillon's previous career high was nine strikeouts, set on Aug. 26, 2011 for Class A West Virginia. He fanned 19 batters in a high school no-hitter on March 23, 2010.
"There were a couple similarities," Taillon said, thinking back to the no-hitter. "I was getting ahead and had great curveballs both days.
The Texas native, who pitched for Canada in the World Baseball Classic, said he'll work on location heading into his next start.
"Starting those in a different spot to keep them from running back over the middle," he said. "As far as my next start, I need to pitch to early contact and try to lower the pitch count."