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Perrotto: ‘Skenesmas’ Turns Into Baseball Bizarro World

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Paul Skenes, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH – It was supposed to be “Skenesmas.”

Paul Skenes made his major-league debut on Saturday for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It marked the unveiling of the most-hyped pitching prospect in franchise history – apologies to Kris Benson and Gerrit Cole.

However, by the time a day that started with Skenes’ first pitch at 4:07 p.m. and ended with the Pirates pulling out a 10-9 victory over the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park, it felt almost as if the first pick in last year’s draft had not even been part of the game.

When the last out was made at 9:23 p.m., it ended one of the strangest days in the ballpark’s 24-year history, and Skenes’ debut was a faint memory.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said.

How strange of a day was it? Skenes threw 17 of his 84 pitches at least 100 mph yet still was charged with three runs in four-plus innings of a pedestrian outing that included seven strikeouts.

How strange of a day was it? The Pirates hit five home runs and scored 10 runs.

It marked the first time in 40 games this season that the Pirates reached double-digit runs. By comparison, they have scored two runs or less 18 times. Furthermore, the Pirates hit multiple home runs in a game for just the sixth time this season with their previous best being three longballs on two different occasions.

Connor Joe and Oneil Cruz hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning. Michael A. Taylor finally went deep for the first time this season in his 103rd plate appearance.

Yasmani Grandal hit his first homer for the Pirates, and it was a big one, a three-run blast that put them back in front 9-8 in the bottom of the sixth after blowing a 6-1 lead in the top of the inning. Andrew McCutchen inexplicably sprinted around the bases in 19.4 seconds following his solo blast, though it was NOT an inside-the-park homer.

However, nothing was crazier than the top half of the fifth after Skenes was lifted following a double by Mike Tauchman and a single by Seiya Suzuki to lead off the inning. The Pirates were ahead 6-1 and seemed comfortably on their way to victory until the bullpen had a spectacular meltdown in which it allowed seven runs in the inning.

Perhaps allowed is the wrong word to use. The Pirates gave the Cubs seven runs.

Remarkably, the Pirates issued six bases-loaded walks in the inning. Yes, six. That was the most in an inning in a major-league game since 1959.

Kyle Nicolas walked home three straight runs while failing to throw a strike during a 12-pitch sequence. Josh Fleming relieved and immediately forced home another run with a walk that enabled the Cubs to close the gap to 6-5.

Tauchman broke the string with a game-tying infield single off Fleming. That was followed by a rain delay of two hours and 20 minutes.

Once play resumed, Colin Holderman took over on the mound and issued back-to-back walks with the bases loaded as the Cubs pulled ahead 8-6.

The inning was reminiscent of a Little League game when both teams are down to their sixth-best pitchers. Except this was a big-league game. At least, that’s how it was advertised.

At one point, parts of the PNC Park crowd began chanting “Fire Shelton,” the first time that has been heard in his five seasons on the job.

In his true-to-form sunny nature, Shelton glossed over the fifth inning and was more interested in praising his team’s ability to come back and win the game. In truth, it was an embarrassment for a major-league franchise whose tolerance for losing and poor play seems to have no limits.

Somehow, the Pirates found a way to win. So, begrudgingly, give them credit for that on a day that started as Skenesmas and ended in baseball bizarro world.

 

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