Paul Skenes strikes out 7 straight in second MLB start


CHICAGO — Paul Skenes dominated the Chicago Cubs so much that the Wrigley Field crowd cheered Friday afternoon when Pete Crow-Armstrong was grounded out in the third inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The home crowd celebrated the swing as it broke Skenes’ seven-game strikeout streak to start his second championship game, a highly anticipated affair given the hype surrounding the game’s best pitcher.

Skenes pitched six hitless innings in his second career start, coming out after throwing a 100 mph fastball past the Cubs’ Mike Tauchman on his 100th and final pitch in a 9-3 victory. Skenes struck out 11 – generating 22 swings and misses on a five-pitch mix highlighting his fastball, splitter and triple-digit slider – and allowed just one baserunner, a walk in the fifth sleeve by Michael Busch.

Skenes, the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft, appeared to be in complete control. That’s what the Pirates envisioned when they selected the 6-foot-6 right-hander from LSU, hoping he could jumpstart their small-market franchise. He came with a 100 mph fastball as his default setting, along with the discipline and sense of scoring he developed during his two years as a cadet at the Air Force Academy.

“I just got into a rhythm,” Skenes said. “I had heard about the day’s games at Wrigley and the atmosphere there. It was really really cool.

Amid the dwindling number of big-name pitching matchups in Major League Baseball, Skenes is a main attraction, a reason to watch as he searches for perfection. Busch, the No. 5 hitter in Chicago’s injury-depleted lineup, interrupted the perfect game and received a loud ovation when he drew an eight-pitch walk against Skenes.

With his hot start, Skenes fell two strikeouts short of the major league record set by Miami Marlins pitcher Pablo Lopez, who started a game with nine on July 11, 2021. Before that, Germán Márquez (September 26, 2018 ), Jacob deGrom (September 15, 2014) and future Cubs broadcaster Jim Deshaies (September 23, 1986) had each started a game with eight consecutive outs.

Skenes bounced back from his uneven major league debut, which came just six days earlier against the Cubs at PNC Park. He showed some high quality stuff, but the Cubs had him throw 84 pitches in four innings, generating three runs on six hits and two walks. He did not earn a decision in Pittsburgh’s 10-9 final victory.

“All the pitchers are going to realize they have to be better,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said before Friday’s game. “There will be a little less twists and turns. There will be a little less chasing. And that’s what we have to make him do. We need to hunt less and have him be in the zone more. Have him make the next pitch. Hit a foul ball, make the next pitch. Continue to make him make the next throw. This is when errors occur.

That didn’t happen this time. Skenes fired 12 fastballs at least 100 mph in his start. In the first inning, Skenes became the third pitcher to strike out the side on heaters over 100 mph. Hunter Greene (Cincinnati Reds) accomplished this feat twice and Bobby Miller (Los Angeles Dodgers) once.

“When you’re dealing with someone with that kind of speed and he has command,” Tauchman said, “he forces you to make split-second decisions.”

Even with a chance to make history, Pirates manager Derek Shelton said it was a simple decision to remove Skenes from the game: “I understand where he’s at, but we also have to understand what our process is and how important it is to us. He won’t finish it, that’s for sure. He did his job.

Christopher Morel ended Pittsburgh’s no-hitter with two outs in the seventh inning, hitting a single to right field against Pirates reliever Carmen Mlodzinski. Skenes’ 11 strikeouts were the third most in a game by a Pirates rookie – only John Candelaria (13), Jose DeLeon (13), Babe Adams (12) and Gerrit Cole (12) had more .

On Friday, Skenes became:

  • the first Pirates pitcher since 1900 to retire the first seven batters in a game
  • the first Pirates pitcher to strike out 11 or more at Wrigley Field
  • the fifth pitcher in franchise history with 10-plus strikeouts in his first two career games (fellow rookie Jared Jones did it earlier this season)
  • the fourth MLB rookie to record an outing of at least six innings, no hits and more than 10 strikeouts, and the first since Chris Heston threw a no-hitter for the San Francisco Giants on June 9, 2015 .

“The beginnings were extremely high-profile,” Shelton said. “It’s nice to get him into the regular flow of being a major league pitcher. He took care of himself. It’s a tough environment, 35,000 people in the game. I was really, really proud of how he handled the environment.

AthleticismSahadev Sharma contributed to this story.

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(Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)


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