Pirates rookie phenom Paul Skenes makes MLB history with another dominant outing

Pirates rookie phenom Paul Skenes makes MLB history with another dominant outing

Just two starts into his MLB career, Pirates rookie phenom Paul Skenes is already making history. The flamethrowing right-hander delivered a dominant performance, tossing six innings of no-hit ball with 11 strikeouts on 100 pitches to secure his first win. The Cubs managed to get a hit against the Pirates’ bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but Skenes’ outing was already etched in the record books.

Skenes came out firing, striking out the first seven batters he faced. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the longest such streak to open a game in Pirates franchise history and the third-longest streak to open a game by a rookie in the Live Ball Era (since 1920). He trails only Jacob deGrom and Jim Deshaies, who share the record of eight.

Skenes’ seven consecutive strikeouts to start the game also tied the longest streak for a Pirates pitcher at any point in a game, joining Erik Bedard and Francisco Liriano. His impressive velocity was on full display, with six of his 11 strikeouts coming on pitches clocked at 100 mph or faster. This performance tied him with the Reds’ Hunter Greene for the third-most 100+ mph strikeouts in a game during the pitch-tracking era (since 2008).

In the pitch-tracking era, only three starting pitchers have recorded three 100+ mph strikeouts in one half-inning. Skenes joined this elite group with three such strikeouts in the first inning against Mike Tauchman, Ian Happ, and Cody Bellinger. He also tied his own record for the fastest strikeout by a Pirates starting pitcher in the pitch-tracking era, touching 101.2 mph on his second-inning strikeout of Miles Mastrobuoni.

Skenes threw 12 pitches that registered at 100 mph or faster in this game, adding to the 17 he threw in his debut. With 29 such pitches, he now leads all starters this season, surpassing the Angels’ José Soriano. Skenes is also responsible for two of the three starts this season in which a pitcher threw at least a dozen pitches with triple-digit velocity.

Skenes is the first pitcher in the Modern Era (since 1900) to have an outing of 6+ innings with at least 10 strikeouts and no hits allowed in his first or second career appearance. Prior to Skenes, only one pitcher had 6+ scoreless innings in an MLB game within a calendar year of being drafted No. 1 overall: 18-year-old David Clyde of the Rangers in 1973. If we add the requirement of 10+ strikeouts, then it had never been done before Skenes.

This is only the second time a pitcher 21 years old or younger has had a 10+ strikeout outing with no more than one hit allowed at Wrigley Field. The first such outing was Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game on May 6, 1998. Skenes’ 11 strikeouts are the most in a game at Wrigley Field by a Pirates pitcher, marking the 1,017th game between the Pirates and Cubs at the iconic venue.

Skenes’ 18 strikeouts across his first two Major League appearances are tied for the third-most in the past 45 seasons, just behind Stephen Strasburg and Tim Hudson.

The first time Chicago Cubs outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong was on the same field as Paul Skenes, their roles were reversed. They were playing together on the United States 12U national team in 2014, with Crow-Armstrong pitching and Skenes catching. Fast forward to today, and Skenes has become baseball’s biggest pitching phenom.

In his first major league start on May 11, Skenes admitted he didn’t feel like himself, giving up three runs on six hits and two walks in four innings. However, in his second start, he showed why he was the No. 1 overall pick. Skenes struck out the first seven batters he faced and finished with 11 strikeouts over six hitless innings, setting a franchise mark for the most strikeouts by a Pirates pitcher at Wrigley Field.

Skenes averaged an incredible 99.3 mph on his fastball, 94.8 on his splitter, 86.8 on his changeup, 84 on his slider, and 80 on his curve. Mike Tauchman, among the many Cubs hitters who couldn’t catch up to Skenes’ stuff, struck out three times, including a swing-and-miss on a 100-mph fastball that marked the end of Skenes’ day in the sixth inning.

Skenes’ combination pitch, called a “splinker” (a hybrid of a splitter and a sinker), has become a new weapon in his arsenal, making the task of facing him even more daunting. Pirates manager Derek Shelton praised Skenes’ ability to mix his pitches, noting that his command and velocity make him a unique talent.

After managing two weakly hit groundouts against his former teammate, Crow-Armstrong offered his takeaways for the next teams to face Skenes. He emphasized the importance of limiting Skenes’ effectiveness at both the top and bottom of the strike zone, given his stuff plays well at both levels.

Skenes’ phone blew up after his dominant performance, a norm since he entered the spotlight while leading LSU to the College World Series title. One of the first people Skenes heard from after the outing at Wrigley was Ryan Theriot, a former LSU and Cubs infielder. Theriot compared Skenes’ demeanor to that of Kerry Wood in his prime, highlighting the young pitcher’s attitude and confidence.

The Pirates are confident that Skenes can handle the pressure of being a budding face of the franchise at such a young age. His time at the Air Force Academy taught him resilience and the ability to stay steady, qualities that are already paying off in his MLB career.

From a somewhat rocky first start to a dazzling follow-up performance, Paul Skenes has quickly become MLB’s newest ace, capturing the attention of the baseball world with his electric stuff and historic outings.

Source: ESPN, MLB.com

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