Top moments from Skenes' historic debut

May 12th, 2024

A little over 10 months removed from being selected first overall in the 2023 MLB Draft, flamethrowing right-hander made his highly anticipated MLB debut, striking out seven across four-plus innings in the Pirates' 10-9 win over the Cubs on Saturday at PNC Park.

Here are all the highlights from his first career start:

He said all the right things

Skenes met the media the day before his debut, and his mindset was to fit in and do what it takes to help his team win.

"I'm excited," Skenes said. "The biggest thing is, I just want to see how it plays. I don't think it's going to be too different. Usages might change, that kinda thing. But it's gonna be fun to be with some veterans who have been around the game, and learn from them."

Uni-versal appeal

The No. 30 in black and gold with "Skenes" on top is already an instant classic in the Steel City. Get a closer look below, and if you want your own jersey, cop one here.

The man of the hour arrives

Through the magic of social media, we were able to watch the moment Skenes arrived at his locker before Saturday's game. (It has to be an incredible feeling.)

"Once in a lifetime experience for sure," Skenes said. "Just an awesome experience from the first pitch. ... I had a lot of people tell me to take it in, take it all in from [the moment] I walked outside ... I'm really grateful for it."

First batter, first punchout

Skenes started off his big league career in style, striking out each of the first two hitters he faced -- Mike Tauchman on a 100.9 mph four-seam fastball and Seiya Suzuki on an 84.2 mph slider. After walking Cody Bellinger, he retired Christopher Morel on a flyout to deep center to finish off a scoreless first inning.

"Getting that early momentum was huge," Skenes said. "... There were some jitters there early and some adrenaline, but really cool experience."

Skenes touched 100 mph nine times in the first inning, topping out at 101.9 mph -- the fastest pitch by a Pirates starting pitcher in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008).

An escape act in the second

Skenes faced a bases-loaded jam with one out in his second inning of work, hitting Nico Hoerner with a pitch, walking Michael Busch on four pitches and allowing a single to Miles Mastrobuoni. However, he struck out Yan Gomes looking on a 101.2 mph fastball inside and got Tauchman to ground out to second base to work out of trouble. Skenes’ strikeout of Gomes set the record for the fastest K by a Bucs starter in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008).

Another zero in the third

Skenes picked up his fourth strikeout of the day in the top of the third inning, getting Suzuki looking with a 99.2 mph four-seam fastball on the outside corner. After Bellinger’s flyout to center field, Skenes allowed a two-out single to Morel, but the Cubs third baseman was caught trying to steal second by Yasmani Grandal to end the inning.

Familiar faces in attendance

Skenes' friends and family, including LSU gymnast and girlfriend Olivia Dunne, were in the stands to take in the show.

"I know how hard he's worked for this moment ... I just know what a hard worker he is, so this is probably one of my favorite moments I've ever seen," Dunne said. "Seriously, there is nothing that can top this. I'm just so proud."

Big bats got his back

Cubs starter Justin Steele matched Skenes zero for zero over the first two innings, but Pirates first baseman Connor Joe broke the scoreless tie with a three-run blast to left field in the bottom of the third. Bucs slugger Oneil Cruz then followed with a homer of his own to right-center field to make it 4-0 Pirates.

Unfazed by first blemish

Skenes allowed his first run as a big leaguer on a one-out homer by Hoerner in the top of the fourth but collected three more strikeouts to run his total to seven K’s through four innings of work.

Skenes' day ends in the fifth

The Pirates kept Skenes in to start the fifth inning, but manager Derek Shelton opted to pull the righty after he gave up a double to Tauchman and an infield single to Suzuki. Both of them came around to score (and both runs were charged to Skenes) after reliever Kyle Nicolas took over. Skenes ended up allowing three runs on six hits (one homer) and two walks with seven strikeouts over four-plus innings, throwing 84 pitches.

Josh Fleming, who replaced Nicolas, wound up walking in the tying run before the game entered a rain delay with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the fifth. After a two-hour, 20-minute delay, Pirates reliever Colin Holderman entered the game and walked in two more runs before inducing a lineout of Nick Madrigal to end the inning.

But there was simply no way the Pirates were going to go down quietly following Skenes' electric debut. In fact, they answered right away in the bottom of the frame as Grandal bashed a three-run homer, his first dinger of the season, to put his squad up for good.

"It was a team win all around," Skenes said. "Awesome to see the bats come out and [hit] five home runs -- we should win that every time."