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Pirates' Tallion looks to stay in groove against Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Jameson Taillon has been terrific for the Pittsburgh Pirates after missing more than a month. His next task will be trying to prevent any July 4 offensive fireworks.

The right-hander will take the mound for the Pirates in the second game of a four-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday afternoon.

Taillon (4-2, 2.97 ERA) was sidelined for six weeks after being diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer. The absence and the health scare have not negatively affected the 25-year-old right-hander on the mound.

In four starts since returning, Taillon has posted a 2.42 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 22 innings. He worked around seven hits to throw 6 1/3 scoreless innings in his last start against Tampa Bay last Thursday for his third scoreless outing of the season.

"It's nice to be a part of it. The time away was tough, when you're sitting there watching guys play and I'm not able to contribute," Taillon told MLB.com after his last start. "I wanted a chance to come back, and I wanted a chance to pitch for something. Here I am."

The Phillies will start right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. (1-0, 4.20 ERA) against Taillon. It will be Leiter's third start of the season as he continues to fill the rotation spot of Jerad Eickhoff, who is on the disabled list with a back issue.

Eickhoff will make a rehab start for Double-A Reading on Tuesday and could rejoin the Phillies' rotation before the All-Star break, according to MLB.com.

In Eickhoff's place, Leiter has made two starts. He was sharp in the first one, tossing six scoreless innings against Arizona on June 23.

Leiter was touched up a bit more in his last start. He gave up four runs and nine hits -- three of which were homers -- in five innings against Seattle last Wednesday.

Leiter will be facing the Pirates for the second time. In a relief outing on May 20 at Pittsburgh, he got two outs while allowing a run on one hit and two walks.

Taillon has made one previous start against the Phillies, a no-decision on July 24, 2016, when he gave up four runs (three earned) in six innings.

The Phillies enter the Tuesday game as winners of two straight. They are looking for their first three-game win streak since winning four in a row from June 3-6.

Philadelphia has been helped lately by improved starting pitching. Aaron Nola threw seven scoreless innings in Monday's series-opening win against the Pirates, which came a day after Nick Pivetta allowed one run in seven innings against the New York Mets.

"I think the guys know there's a competition within a competition," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said of his starters. "I think that has a little bit to do with it. It's nice to see our starting pitching continue to pitch well."

Nola said, "I think the more we elevate our stuff, we'll be winning games. I think that's helping the guys in our clubhouse and on the field."

The Pirates, meanwhile, are trending in the other direction. Pittsburgh has lost four games in a row, marking the team's longest losing streak since dropping four straight from June 6 to June 9.

Monday night's 4-0 loss to the Phillies pushed the Pirates' record to 37-46, matching the furthest below .500 they have been this season.

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