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Perrotto: This Paul Skenes Night One to Remember

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Paul Skenes, Pittsburgh Pirates

There have been reasons to go to PNC Park to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates play in recent years. Sadly, they have rarely pertained to baseball.

The view of the Pittsburgh skyline and the Roberto Clemente Bridge is breathtaking. The concessions are good and varied. Joe KIimchak is the best hype man in baseball and whatever the Pittsburgh Pirates are paying him is not enough.

However, the Pirates have an even bigger reason to make the trip ballpark now despite having just one winning season since 2016. His name is Paul Skenes.

The rookie right-hander continued to impress Friday night as the Pirates romped to a 14-2 victory over the New York Mets. Skenes gave up two runs on four hits in seven innings and had eight strikeouts even when he wasn’t at his sharpest.

Skenes’ record is perfect at 5-0 through 10 career starts. He has a 2.12 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 59.1 innings.

Just as important to the low-budget Pirates is this number: 28,969. That is the average attendance in Skenes’ six starts at PNC Park. The Pirates are drawing 21,078 fans a game at home this season.

The Pirates had just their second sellout of the season Friday night with an attendance of 37,037.

So, Skenes is worth almost 8,000 more tickets sold each time he takes the mound. The 22-year-old is already justifying his $9.2-million signing bonus last year as the first selection in the amateur draft.

“Yeah, there’s a different atmosphere in the ballpark when he pitches,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “And I think that’s really cool and I think people have paid attention to it. And the fact that he was (drafted) 1-1 and has got here in less than a year and the fact that he’s off to a good start. I do think there’s a different buzz in our ballpark and I think our players enjoy that.”

Skenes felt his adrenaline pumping when he took the mound in the first inning.

“It was cool. I could sense it going out at the beginning of my warmups, just a different buzz,” Skenes said. “It was probably because of the free T-shirts they were giving away. We got to do that every day.”

The promotion was bucket hat night. Skenes can be forgiven for that misstep as he had other things on his mind. Though he is just 22, Skenes has lived long enough to know people like free stuff.

However, people also like stars and Skenes is already becoming one just short of two months making his big-league debut on May 11 – even can be self-deprecating.

“It’s always nice when you play as a full, cohesive unit,” Skenes said. “We had some good plays out there made and got some help. Obviously got some help offensively too, just overall a team win.”

Skenes did get plenty of support. The Pirates tied a club record by hitting seven home runs – including grand slams by Bryan Reynolds and Rowdy Tellez – and set a season-high for runs scored.

The fans had plenty to cheer about.

“They were into the game the whole game,” Shelton said. “You could feel the energy in the ballpark tonight. They were into it. Even late in the game when it was 14-2, they were still up on their feet. You get a situation like that sometimes where crowds will leave, and they were all here and cheering and I thought that was really cool.”

It was indeed a fun night at the ballpark. The Pirates are banking on Skenes providing many more.

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