Seven straight K's and no hits: Skenes dominates in 2nd start

May 18th, 2024

CHICAGO -- While most of the baseball world was in awe of ’ Major League debut last Saturday, Yasmani Grandal had seen him pitch better when he was on his rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis. Sure, seven strikeouts and 17 triple-digit fastballs was eye-opening, but he felt the rookie phenom had more in the tank.

Oh my, did he have more in the tank.

Skenes clobbered the Cubs in his first Major League road start Friday, striking out 11 over six no-hit innings before handing the ball over to the bullpen as the Pirates coasted to a 9-3 win at Wrigley Field.

"That's pretty much it,” Grandal said postgame. “I don't know what else we can ask for. But like I said, last time I thought he was a little amped up, being his debut. Now we see the more slightly calm, ‘getting to what we need to get’ type of guy."

“I think it was a number of things,” Skenes said of his success. “Routine, body, one of those days. You can chalk it up to a lot.”

It took Skenes no time to establish his stuff coming out of the gate, getting the Cubs to whiff on all six of their swings as they struck out in order in the first. He then struck out the side in the second, as well as Nick Madrigal to open the third. Seven up. Seven down. Seven strikeouts.

"I mean, the first three innings, it's about as good as it gets,” manager Derek Shelton said. “I mean, seven punch [on] the first nine hitters? You don't see that."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the first time a Pirate has done that in the Modern Era of baseball (since 1900). To rattle off some more firsts and notable accomplishments he achieved Friday:

• Skenes was the first Pirate to strike out 11 Cubs at Wrigley Field.

• Skenes became just the fourth Pirate pitcher to strike out at least 10 in a game before his 22nd birthday. He joins Bob Moose (four times), Nick Maddox and John Candelaria, who was the most recent pitcher to do so in 1975.

• Skenes’ strikeout of Miles Mastrobuoni in the second inning registered at 101.2 mph, matching his own record for the fastest strikeout by a Pirate pitcher in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008).

• He became just the third pitcher in the pitch-tracking era to strike out the side on pitches registering at least 100 mph, joining Hunter Greene (Sept. 17, 2022 and Oct. 3, 2022) and Bobby Miller (July 5, 2023).

And, oh yeah, 22 whiffs, a dozen triple-digit fastballs and just one hard-hit ball allowed.

“It’s a big boy throwing a heavy baseball,” said Cubs outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong. “He does a really good job with mixing and everything. But it’s tough to hit anybody that throws 100-plus with two to three really good secondary pitches and a sinker that moves like a changeup at 95.”

It started with the fastball this time. In his debut start, he felt he didn’t have his normal control. That certainly was rectified on Friday, as he got a dozen of his whiffs with the four-seamer.

“It’s easier to pitch when you feel good,” Skenes said. “Had a better idea of where my fastball was going. It’s not easy to pitch, regardless of the circumstances, but it’s always easier to pitch when you have fastball command because you have to have that. That was the big thing today.”

The velocity held, too. Skenes’ 100th pitch clocked in at 100 mph, blowing past Mike Tauchman for his 11th strikeout. It was an exclamation point on his day and inevitable first win, something that impressed everyone, with maybe the exception of his catcher.

“If anything, why wasn't it 102?” Grandal joked. “I've seen him throw 120-plus pitches and then his last was 102. So I guess he was down today."

Obviously it wasn’t a down day for Skenes. It was the first great start of his career, and he did it in one of the game’s most iconic parks.

“I think that’s something I’ll appreciate even more the next couple days,” Skenes said. “Wrigley is awesome, playing those guys, Friday day game. I had heard all about the day games at Wrigley and the vibe there. It was really cool.”