Swashbuckler Skenes shines MLB debut, Pirates win 10-9

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 30: Indianapolis Indians pitcher Paul Skenes (10) brings the heat to the plate during a Milb baseball game between the Buffalo Bisons and the Indianapolis Indians on April, 30, 2024 at Victory Field in Indianapolis, IN.(Photo by Jeff Brown/Indianapolis Reorder)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 30: Indianapolis Indians pitcher Paul Skenes (10) brings the heat to the plate during a Milb baseball game between the Buffalo Bisons and the Indianapolis Indians on April, 30, 2024 at Victory Field in Indianapolis, IN.(Photo by Jeff Brown/Indianapolis Reorder)

The much-anticipated MLB debut of top pitching prospect Paul Skenes garnered an immense showing, even amidst a rain-delayed, dramatic slugfest in front of 34,924 fans at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on May 12. Ultimately, the Pittsburgh Pirates prevailed 10-9 over the Chicago Cubs.

“It was awesome. It was really cool,” Skenes said after his first-ever MLB start. “Everyone always talks about the stadium. It is an awesome stadium, awesome skyline, the fans were awesome … it was an awesome day,”

The Pirates drafted Skenes first overall in the 2023 MLB Draft out of Louisiana State University. Before his major league call-up, Skenes served as the starting pitcher for the Indianapolis Indians, the Pirates’ minor league affiliate.

During his time with the Indians, Skenes started seven games, averaging 3.8 innings pitched, 6.8 strikeouts and an impressive 0.13 WHIP.

During that time, pitching coach Drew Benes praised Skenes.

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“He is incredible in every way, the way he is wired, the way he goes about his work, focus, it is all there,” Benes said. “He does everything at a pretty high level. The way he thinks about the game, his ability to compete and attack is special.”

And attack is what Skenes did. In his four innings of work, Skenes struck out seven of the Cubs’ batters. Skenes also topped 100 mph on his fastball 17 times in that span. His slider proved equally problematic for the Cubs, keeping hitters off balance and generating extra swings and misses. While he allowed three runs and walked two batters, Skenes demonstrated remarkable composure for a pitcher making his debut in the big leagues.

Skenes’ debut may mark a pivotal point for the Pirates, ushering in a conceivable shift in the pitching unit. His performance appeared to drive excitement and hope into a fanbase that has endured a bevy of losing seasons.

While it’s too early to anoint him as a savior of Pirates baseball, Skenes’ debut showcased the potential of a young, talented pitcher with room to grow. If Skenes continues to develop at the quick rate he has already demonstrated in the minor leagues as well as his MLB, Pittsburgh could soon find itself back in contention.

Undoubtedly, the Pirates will use Skenes sparingly to avoid employing him with a heavy workload throughout the season. Do not expect Skenes to start every game. Pirates pitching development advisor Dewey Robinson knows that Skenes’ debut has already left a mark on the organization and its fans.

“He’s one in a decade,” Robinson said.

Contact multi-media & senior sports reporter Noral Parham at (317)-762-7846. Follow him on Twitter @3Noral.