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Paul Skenes throws six no-hit innings: Pirates rookie strikes out 11 against Cubs in second career start

Pittsburgh Pirates uber-prospect Paul Skenes, the fire-balling right-hander, made his second major-league start on Friday. As with his big-league debut, this one took place against the Chicago Cubs (PIT-CHC GameTracker). Normally, facing a lineup in consecutive starts – particularly an above-average offense like that of the Cubs – benefits the hitters by virtue of familiarity and proximity. Such an edge, however, was very much not in evidence on Friday at Wrigley, as Skenes wound up authoring the following line in his second trip to the mound: 

As you can see, Skenes struck out a load of Cubs and also didn’t permit a base hit. Skenes also recorded six ground-outs against one fly-out and averaged 99.3 mph on his fastball. In all, he induced 22 whiffs on 54 swings by Chicago hitters. Those 11 strikeouts tie a Pirates Wrigley Field record. 

Of particular note is that Skenes, who turns 22 on May 29, struck out the first seven batters he faced. That came tantalizingly close to the modern-era major league record for strikeouts to start a game. That record is nine straight, set by Pablo López, then of the Marlins, in 2021.

Opinions will vary, but it says here that Skenes’ most impressive pitch of the day was the one that secured his sixth strikeout: 

Triple-digit heat plus all that arm-side movement makes for a devastating fastball, to say the least. He’s more than “just” that lead offering, though. Skenes also often mixes in a hard slider and a splitter that he throws with a sinker grip and thus calls a “splinker.” Here’s a look: 

There’s also a less commonly used curve and changeup in his toolkit. 

Of further note is that Skenes retired the first 13 batters he faced and thus carried a perfect-game bid into the fifth inning. Michael Busch was the first Cub to reach, as he worked an eight-pitch walk off Skenes with one out in the fifth. That said, the seventh pitch of the plate appearance, a splinker, appeared to catch the outside corner for strike three. However, plate umpire Brian O’Nora ruled it ball three instead. Skenes rebounded to get the next hitter for his 10th strikeout. 

After Skenes completed the sixth, he was at an even 100 pitches, which was the highest pitch count of his professional career by a substantial margin. That’s why even though Skenes had yet to permit a hit, Pirates manager Derek Shelton lifted him and went to the bullpen. He exited the game staked to an 8-0 lead. As such, Skenes’ no-hit bid became a combined no-hit bid, and it lasted for two more outs. With two outs in the seventh, Christopher Morel was able to dump an opposite-field single into right off reliever Carmen Mlodzinski and thus put an end to the developing situation. 

With the sterling effort, Skenes was able to lower his ERA for the season from 6.75 after one start to 2.70 after two. He now has 18 strikeouts against three walks in 10 innings of work. In other words, the top overall pick of the 2023 draft and perhaps the most ballyhooed pitching prospect since Stephen Straburg has very much lived up to the hype thus far. That’s thanks in large measure to Skenes’ dominance on Friday. 

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