Pirates' Paul Skenes strikes out 7 Cubs in 4 innings in MLB debut

The highly anticipated MLB debut of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes brought energy to PNC Park on Saturday.

The 21-year-old LSU product, who is the top-ranked pitching prospect in MLB, held the Chicago Cubs to one run in four innings heading into the top of the fifth with the Pirates leading 6-1.

In his first outing in the big leagues, Skenes struck out seven, walked two and gave up three earned runs and six hits on 84 pitches. The first run they gave up came on Nico Horner's home run in the fourth inning.

After a rain delay of more than two hours, the bullpen took down Skenes, recording six run-scoring walks that gave Chicago the lead as part of a seven-run fifth inning. The Pirates then came back to take the lead thanks to Yasmani Grandal's home run in the bottom of the fifth and won 10–9.

Pirates fans and baseball fans were waiting for Skenes to finally be called up to the major leagues. And on Wednesday, it happened, and a packed PNC Park gathered in anticipation of his debut.

Crowd Formed around the Pirates' bullpen Watching Skenes warm up before a game. He immediately rewarded the visitors by striking out the first two batters, Mike Tauchman and Seiya Suzuki.

Tauchman went down swinging at a full count on a 101 mph fastball.

Suzuki, who went down on a 99 mph fastball in second at-batIn his first plate appearance, experienced Skenes' slider, which was downright bad.

Skane has been regularly compared to former Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg. The similarities start with their size and powerful fastball. They both dominated hitters at the college level and later in the minor leagues.

Strasburg's MLB debut in 2010 was expected to be around a baseball, just as Skenes took the ball for his first start on Saturday.

(As MASN's Mark Zuckerman Of note, Andrew McCutchen was the leadoff hitter on Saturday, just as he was for Strasburg's first MLB outing.)

Skane has had a quick journey from being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft to making his debut with the Pirates. His 10 month, 2 day wait wasn't as quick as the 96 days it took fellow LSU Tiger Ben McDonald, the No. 1 pick in the 1989 draft, to make it to The Show, but it was worth the wait.

Skenes received a call-up to Triple-A Indianapolis this season after seven starts. He threw 27 1/3 innings and recorded 45 strikeouts, with only eight walks and a 0.99 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He also held opponents to a .175 batting average.

The Pirates were waiting to see signs that Skenes might be ready for a call-up this season, and he performed well in each outing in the minors.

“He was confident he could come in and help us win games,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherrington said Thursday, a day after Skenes was called up. “Really it's as simple as that, and as we said going back to spring training, most of the time that's what it was telling us. Not all of it, because we had control over some of the scheduling and volume, so it wasn't all up to him. But a lot of it was going to be up to him, and I think he let us know very loud and clear that he was ready.

Skenes said during his Friday media session that he just wants to put the Pirates “in a position to win.” His presence, along with fellow rookie pitcher Jared Jones, has energized not only the team's rotation but also the fan base in Pittsburgh, which has not seen a winning record since 2018 and has not seen playoff baseball since 2015, when Skenes was 13 years old.

Pirates fans are hoping Saturday will be the beginning of a future that will see winning baseball return to town.

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