World Series

Pirates’ Paul Skenes allows no hits in 6 innings, strikes out 11 in second MLB start

Pirates' Paul Skenes allows no hits in 6 innings, strikes out 11 in second MLB start

In his second major-league start, Pittsburgh Pirates phenom Paul Skenes provided the dominant performance fans expected in his debut last week. Behind the rookie's effort, the Pirates easily beat the Chicago Cubs on Friday, 9–3.

Skenes wasn't fazed about facing the Cubs for the second consecutive outing, this time at Wrigley Field. The right-hander struck out the first seven batters he faced, repeatedly overpowering hitters with 100 mph four-seam fastballs while confounding them with sliders and sinkers.

"I felt like we could call pretty much anything we wanted," said Pirates catcher Yasmani Grandal told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Andrew Destin. “…Guy like him, I feel like I can just pretty much call anything I want and it's going to be a strike. It's an unbelievable pitch in a good location."

Pete Crow-Armstrong was the first Cub to put the ball in play, grounding out to first base in the third inning. That was followed by a Miguel Amaya groundout to third.

Overall, Skenes allowed no hits through six innings and finished with 11 strikeouts, surpassing the seven in his first start. Despite the no-hitter, his day was finished after he threw 100 pitches, 67 of them for strikes. That was closer to the Stephen Strasburg type of performance that many fans expected for Skenes' first start.

Having better control of his fastball was key to his improved performance, Skenes told reporters after the game.

"It's really tough to compete without fastball execution, no matter who you are," Skenes said. "It was a lot better today, something I could lean on a little bit more than last week."

The Cubs finally reached base in the fifth inning when Michael Busch drew an eight-pitch walk. The first baseman made the rookie starter work in the at-bat, fouling off several pitches.

Carmen Mlodzinski took over for Pittsburgh in the seventh inning. With Skenes out of the game, the Cubs got their first hit of the day on a single by Christopher Morel. Amaya put Chicago on the board with a solo home run in the eighth. Morel later added a two-run double.

Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks couldn't match Skenes, which is probably to be expected for a pitcher who doesn't hit 100 mph on the radar gun. The 11-year veteran gave up eight runs (seven earned) and 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings. He was replaced by Jose Cuas, who pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief.

Hendricks has allowed four or more runs in six of his eight starts this season, leaving Chicago manager Craig Counsell to answer postgame questions about whether or not he'll stay in the Cubs' rotation.

The Pirates broke the game open in the fourth inning with three straight hits to drive in three runs. The big blow was a two-run single by Jared Triolo, who also hit a two-run homer in the third. The Pirates then piled on with a three-run fifth inning, with two runs knocked in on a Grandal single.

Andrew McCutchen added a solo homer in the eighth off Mark Leiter Jr. to give Pittsburgh a 9–0 lead. Triolo, Grandal, Bryan Reynolds, Connor Joe, Nick Gonzales and Rowdy Tellez each finished with two hits for the afternoon.

Skenes' 11 strikeouts are the most by a Pirates pitcher ever at Wrigley Field. He's the first pitcher in MLB history to throw at least six innings while punching out more than 10 and allowing no hits within his first two career major league starts. And he's only the second pitcher to throw at least six scoreless innings within a calendar year of being drafted No. 1 overall, according to MLB.com's Sarah Langs.

"He’s awesome. He’s going to have a great career, and I think he’s going to be one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball," teammate Martín Pérez said to the Post-Gazette's Destin.

The rookie sensation's next start is scheduled for May 23 against the San Francisco Giants.

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