ERIE - This Double-A thing has been a piece of cake so far for Jameson Taillon.
Four starts. Four wins. Three runs total in 22 innings. A 1.23 ERA.
The prized prospect already has shown the ability to dominate a lineup when he has his best stuff. But what Taillon showed on a frigid Saturday afternoon against Erie was impressive in its own right.
"He didn't really have his best stuff today, but he competed, and that's what we're looking for every five days," Curve manager Carlos Garcia said.
Taillon battled without his good fastball in his first start of the season but still shut out Erie for five innings in the Curve's 6-3 win before 1,131 fans at Jerry Uht Park.
"I didn't feel my best today but went out there and made it work and competed through five," the 21-year-old right-hander said.
Taillon went 3-0 in three starts for the Curve late last season. He didn't give up a run his first two starts, then allowed three in his season finale at Erie.
His return to Jerry Uht Park was much different - much colder as it was around 30 degrees at game time - but Taillon (1-0) managed to battle through the elements and pitch a an effective game. He threw 75 pitches (43 strikes) in five innings, allowed four hits, struck out four and walked one.
"The goal is to get out there and just compete, hit my pitch count, be efficient, put the team in position to win, and I think I accomplished most of those," Taillon said.
The Curve offense gave Taillon an early lead with single runs in the first and second innings, and the young pitcher overcame a tough first inning (22 pitches) to enjoy a solid day.
"He threw a lot of pitches in the first inning, but the rest of the game he settled down, tried to establish the inside part of the plate," Garcia said.
Even when he doesn't have his best stuff, Taillon believes one of his strengths is he has enough in his repertoire to feel confident that he can get through a lineup.
"I didn't have my best fastball, but I did have a good curveball and I did have a good changeup, so that's always something I can fall back on," Taillon said. "I can throw them for strikes, I can throw them 0-2, I can pretty much throw them in any count. It's good to have in my back pocket."
Taillon is from Texas and spent his first two seasons of pro ball at West Virginia and Bradenton, so Saturday was the first time he's had to pitch in brutal cold weather. That's what he will have to do when he gets to Pittsburgh, so Saturday was a good lesson.
"It's good to get out in the cold and learn how to do it," he said.
The Curve offense put together another good day, ripping 11 hits and getting three apiece from left fielder Andrew Lambo and third baseman Adalberto Santos. Altoona has a .300 team batting average through three games, due largely to a strong heart of the order that includes Lambo, Santos and Matt Curry.
"We feed off each other's at-bats," said Santos, who's hitting .455. "If Curry hits a line drive and Lambo hits a line drive and I'm up, it makes me more eager to go up there and be ready. With those two guys in front of me it's exciting to get ready to hit."
Altoona scored two runs - one earned - off Erie starter and former Curve pitcher Derek Hankins (0-1) over 4 2/3 innings. The offense added two more runs in the sixth and one in the seventh before Lambo hit a solo homer in the ninth.
Nathan Baker got out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and closed it out in the ninth to earn his first save.
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: RHP Jameson Taillon pitched five shutout innings for the Curve.
Key play: Altoona scored in the first and second innings to give Taillon a quick 2-0 lead.
Key stat: Taillon has allowed only three runs over 22 innings in four Double-A starts.
SUBHD: How they scored
Top 1st: Rojas singled, scored on Curry sacrifice fly (1-0).
Top 2nd: Santos singled, scored on Cutler double (2-0).
Top 6th: Lambo walked, scored on Howard single (3-0); Santos reached on Douglas error, scored on Ngoepe sacrifice fly (4-0).
Bottom 6th: Perez solo homer (4-1).
Top 7th: Curry singled, scored on Santos single (5-1).
Bottom 8th: Johnson doubled, scored on Perez single (5-2).
Top 9th: Lambo solo homer (6-2).
Bottom 9th: Jones doubled, scored on Fields sacrifice fly (6-3).