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Paul Skenes Displays Complete Arsenal, Growing Potential In Pirates’ Win Over Reds



Paul Skenes, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH — With all the hype that has surrounded Paul Skenes since he was selected with the first pick in last year’s draft, perhaps the most buzz has been in regards to his powerful fastball.

In each of his first seven starts to begin his major-league career, the radar gun will commonly read triple digits throughout the duration of his time spent on the mound.

Skenes has already thrown over 60 pitches of at least 100 mph this season, by far the most of any starting pitcher across the league. Time and time again, he’s blown his fastball by opposing hitters and has made some of the game’s biggest stars look completely out of sorts.

The star rookie threw five pitches that registered triple digits on the radar gun in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 4-1 win over the division-rival Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park on Monday night, but the pitch wasn’t the main reason Skenes was again able to deliver a dazzling performance.

Skenes used his fastball less than usual and threw 10 changeups, the most he’s had in a game to date. He also relied more on his curveball for the second-straight start more than he had through his first five appearances.

Even with the atypical pitch usage, Skenes delivered for the Pirates to improve his record to 4-0. As a team, the Pirates are 6-1 in games their prized rookie has started.

Skenes allowed a first-inning run when Jeimer Candelario singled with two outs and Spencer Steer doubled to deep center.

The right-hander put a shaky first inning behind him and gave the Pirates six-strong inning in another quality start. He held the Reds to the one run on seven hits with one walk and seven more strikeouts. He’s up to 53 punch outs in 39.1 innings on the season.

“I think as he continues to grow, we see the ability to use weapons,” said manager Derek Shelton on Skenes’ performance. “He told us in spring training that he thought his changeup was good and that he was going to use it more … The continued pitch development is really important.”

Combining the fact that the Pirates expedited Skenes through the minor leagues along with his strong work ethic, there is every reason to believe he’s not yet a finished product.

Considering he owns a 2.29 ERA through the first five-plus weeks of his career, Skenes’ potential feels like it’s limitless.

With an improving and evolving arsenal, as was on display on Monday in Pittsburgh, Skenes has shown he’s much more than just a highlight-reel fastball.

“Today it was one of those days where I kind of had to use all five pitches to get through it,” he said of his outing. “It was kind of cool to execute my way through six innings, kind of out of necessity. I felt good today. I was happy with the execution of all the pitches.”

Check Off Another First

Though it usually would not be as flashy as a first-career strikeout or first win, Skenes checked off another first in his career, but even this one was noteworthy.

Skenes executed a perfect pick-off of the lightning-fast Elly De La Cruz at first base in the sixth inning. The Reds’ shortstop was originally ruled safe but the Pirates challenged and the call was overturned.

De La Cruz wound up stealing a base later in the game, giving him a league-high 37 stolen bases through 72 games played this season. But Skenes was able to prevent a dangerous baserunner from doing any damage in his final inning of work by hooking up with first baseman Rowdy Tellez for the out.

“He made a great throw,” said Tellez. “I think as a first baseman, my job is to let the ball travel as far as it can and make the tag. I can’t do that unless he makes a good throw.”

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