PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates are mired in their toughest stretch in quite some time.
Rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon might give Pittsburgh something to look forward to Friday, when the Pirates face the Los Angeles Dodgers at PNC Park. In three MLB starts, Taillon has gone 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA.
Taillon's most impressive performance came in his second start, when he pitched eight scoreless innings while allowing two hits in a 4-0 win against the New York Mets on June 14. He didn't fare as well against the Chicago Cubs five days later and suffered his first loss, allowed four runs while lasting just four innings.
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The Dodgers will prove a tough test. Los Angeles has won six straight and nine of their past 10 games.
The Pirates could help Taillon by scoring early, but even that hasn't been a recipe for success. They took a 6-1 lead over the San Francisco Giants through three innings Wednesday and held a 1-0 lead early again Thursday.
Pittsburgh lost each game. On Thursday, the Pirates had a chance to build a cushion in the second inning after scoring one run in the first, but didn't take advantage of having runners on the corners with no outs.
"We left one out there in the second," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after a 5-3 loss Thursday. "First and third and nobody out after we had scored one. A couple switches early in the game that we didn't capitalize on and they caused the separation."
Taillon is expected to face right-hander Nick Tepesch, who the Dodgers are expected to promote from Triple-A Oklahoma City. He would replace right-hander Mike Bolsinger, who was optioned to Oklahoma City after going just 2 2/3 innings in his start against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.
Tepesch is not currently on the Dodgers' 40-man roster. Los Angeles would have to make a roster move to clear a spot for him.
He last pitched in 2014, when he went 5-11 with a 4.36 ERA for the Texas Rangers. He has never faced the Pirates.
In Los Angeles' last game, a 4-3 win against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, right fielder Yasiel Puig scored the winning run on a walk-off inside-the-park home run.
"There's something about Yasiel that's very fascinating," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, according to the Los Angeles Times. "You love him but sometimes he leaves you scratching your head. You do not want to take your eyes off him because something might happen, good or not so good."
Puig has had three hits in two games since coming off the disabled list. While running the bases Wednesday, Puig said he pushed his ailing hamstring to see how far it could go.
"I was ready for the hit, and nobody thought that the ball would go through," Puig said through an interpreter, per ESPN.com. "So when I did see the ball go through, I had to talk to my hamstring so I can figure out how far I could go on the bases."