Jameson Taillon hit hard in return to Pittsburgh as Yankees fall to Pirates

Jameson Taillon makes disappointing return to Pittsburgh, where he went through some of the most emotional moments of his career. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

PITTSBURGH — It wasn’t the warmest welcome back. Jameson Taillon was greeted by a nice “Thank You” video on the scoreboard at PNC Park and used his usual warm-up song before he threw a pitch against his former team.

Then the Pirates were done being good hosts. They hit Taillon hard in his first trip back to PNC Park since the Pirates dealt him to the Yankees. The Bombers couldn’t slug their way to a comeback as they lost to the Pirates 5-2 Tuesday night.

The Yankees (58-23) have lost two straight for just the sixth time this season, dropping them to 16-6 after a loss. They still hold the best record in baseball, with the Astros the only other team that began the day with over 50 wins, officially halfway through the season.

Taillon went 5.1 innings, allowing five runs on six hits, including two home runs. He did not walk a batter and struck out five. Taillon had just seven swings and misses Tuesday night.

“I walked here today and walking over the bridges and stuff, it definitely had me thinking a little bit,” Taillon said of his first start back since he was traded to the Yankees in January of 2021. “I went through a lot here; made lifelong friends, people I keep in touch with. I’ve been in these people’s weddings. I’ve watched families grow and stuff so it’s definitely cool to be back. This city always treated me really well.

“But it’s been long enough now to where I wasn’t super emotional out there or anything.”

That raises some concerns.

Over his last six starts, Taillon’s ERA is a whopping 6.16 and perhaps even more concerning is the way teams are slugging against him. Six of the 10 homers he has allowed this season have come over the last six starts.

“I think it just comes down to avoiding slug with runners on,” Taillon said. “Against Houston I gave up a couple three-run homers. Tonight I gave up some damage with runners on.”

In the bottom of the second, Taillon gave up a 392-foot homer to Daniel Vogelbach. In the fourth, he gave up a lead-off double to Bryan Reynolds and a 401-foot homer to rookie Jack Suwinski. Then he gave up an RBI-double to former Yankees prospect Ben Gamel.

Taillon gave up a leadoff single to Suwinski in the sixth, before getting pulled. Suwinsky scored on an Oneil Cruz sacrifice fly.

“There’s different things you can do. You can peel back all the layers, I can look at how every pitch is performing. I can go look at where my strengths are, where I want my four-seam to be and where I’m missing, where the damage is happening against righties and lefties,” Taillon said. “I can look at different sides of the plate where the slug is coming from and stuff. So I’ll peel it all back and see what we got. I don’t think it’s like a delivery change or anything. I think it just comes down to execution when it really counts.”

Nor did he get much support from an offense that has had some droughts lately.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who had three hits, doubled and scored on Aaron Judge’s single, snapping a 15-inning scoring drought for the Yankees that dated back to the eighth inning of the second game of Saturday’s double-header against the Guardians. Gleyber Torres walked to lead off the eighth and scored on Matt Carpenter’s single.

Veteran lefty Jose Quintana held the Yankees at bay through five innings. He allowed that one run on six hits. He struck out seven.

The Yankees got good work behind Taillon, with 1.2 scoreless from Lucas Luetge and the first perfect inning from Aroldis Chapman since April 30.

Taillon spent four years in the big leagues with the Pirates, going 29-24 with a 3.67 ERA, and while he said that he didn’t think his emotions played a part Tuesday night, it clearly did mean a lot to him.

“Yeah, that was cool. That was cool,” Taillon said. “Yeah, I’m not used to having my walkout song play in a visiting stadium. So that was cool. Hopefully I can get a copy of the video they play and I’d like to have that for the rest of my life.”