The Pittsburgh Pirates won't play in October this season, but they think they've found a staff ace who can get them there in the future.
Or perhaps they've discovered two aces, or maybe even three.
Right-hander Jameson Taillon (14-9) makes his 32nd and final start of the season Saturday by opposing Cincinnati Reds right-hander Michael Lorenzen (3-2) in the second game of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park. The Pirates are 13-4 with seven consecutive wins against the Reds this season.
The Pirates assured themselves of only their seventh winning record in 34 years by beating the Reds 8-4 Friday night as Colin Moran homered and drove in three runs and Elias Diaz also homered among 13 Pittsburgh hits. The Reds lost their sixth in a row and 11th in 14 games.
It's the first time since 1988 the Pirates (81-78) will own a winning record in a season in which they didn't make the playoffs. They won the NL East in 1990, 1991 and 1992 before enduring a record 20-year span without a winning record, then reached the NL wild card game in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Taillon isn't being mentioned in any NL Cy Young Award discussion, but he's developing into one of the league's top starting pitchers. Taillon will be looking to make his 22nd consecutive start with three earned runs or fewer allowed, a streak surpassed this season only by New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who's made 29 consecutive such starts.
Taillon out-pitched left-hander Cole Hamels of the Chicago Cubs his last time out, allowing one run and five hits over seven innings of a 5-1 Pirates victory Monday night at Wrigley Field. The start before that, Taillon threw seven shutout innings and struck out a career-high 11 against the Kansas City Royals.
"He's a tremendous pitcher and he has a lot of upside to look forward to," Hamels told reporters after the game. "He's going to be a challenge from here on out."
Taillon has a 2.26 ERA in his last 14 starts, and is 8-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 12 starts since the All-Star break. He'll be looking for his fourth win of the season against the Reds.
The 26-year-old Taillon and right-hander Trevor Williams (14-10) give the Pirates an outstanding one-two combo heading into next season.
The Pirates also have former AL All-Star right-hander Chris Archer, who is 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA since being acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays but was outstanding in his final start of the season. He shut out the Cubs for six innings, striking out nine, in a 6-0 Pirates win on Tuesday.
Williams, also 26, took the loss as the Cubs beat the Pirates 3-0 on Thursday, when he gave up three runs and eight hits in five innings. Williams had a 1.29 ERA in his last 13 starts, and his 1.38 ERA over the second half of the season is one of the lowest in franchise history.
"Finishing above .500 is going to be good for us moving forward with everybody coming back," Williams told the team website.
The last-place Reds have a number of young pitchers - including Lorenzen - but none has made a breakthrough like that of Taillon or Williams.
Lorenzen will be making his third start since shifting into the rotation following 42 consecutive appearances out of the bullpen this season. He hadn't started since 2015 before starting Sept. 18 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
He lasted four innings in each of his two starts to date, giving up five runs and 10 hits, and was roughed up for four runs and nine hits against the Miami Marlins on Sunday. He is 3-1 with a 3.21 ERA in relief this season.
Whether he's a starter or a reliever in the future is to be determined, based on what other starters we have in the rotation and where he best fits," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "He's been an integral part of the pitching staff."
Lorenzen is 4-2 with a 2.18 ERA in 23 career games against Pittsburgh. Taillon is 4-3 with a 4.28 ERA in 11 career starts against Cincinnati, including a 3-1 record and 2.84 ERA this season. He pitched a one-hit shutout against the Reds on April 8 in Pittsburgh, winning 5-0.