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Paul Skenes was a little wild in MLB debut but not as wild as the Pirates

There is no party like a Pittsburgh Pirates party, at least that’s what pitching phenom Paul Skenes is likely thinking after making his much-anticipated MLB debut vs. the Cubs at PNC Park on Saturday afternoon.

How anticipated was the debut for Skenes, the number-one overall pick in the 2023 amateur draft? Not only did he have to dodge several photographers as he headed to the mound to warm up before the game, but he received a standing ovation from the near-sell-out crowd in Pittsburgh.  I don’t blame the fans one bit.

The Skenes story had everything heading into Saturday’s game: It had the man, himself, whose physical attributes included a 6’6″, 235-pound frame. His toolbox included a 100-plus mph fastball. Skenes also had a girlfriend in attendance named Livvy Dunne, who is the Taylor Swift to Skenes’ Travis Kelce. Only in this case, she’s a famous collegiate gymnast and social media personality who is way more popular than her boyfriend who plays sports professionally.

Back to Skenes’ debut. How was it? It wasn’t bad.

Skenes pitched four-plus innings and gave up six hits and three earned runs, while striking out seven batters, walking two and hitting one. Of the 84 pitches he threw, 54 were strikes, and he reached 100 mph on 17 of them.

In the meantime, the Pirates built a 6-1 advantage on the strength of the long ball.

The first was a three-run shot by Connor Joe in the bottom of the third inning. Oneil Cruz followed that with a solo blast to make it 4-0, the home team.

After the Cubs hit a solo home run of their own in the top of the fourth inning, Michael A. Taylor answered with a two-run home run in the bottom of the inning.

Skenes was lifted in the top of the fifth inning after allowing the first two Cubs’ batters to reach base on a double and infield single.

That’s when the real party started.

Reliever Kyle Nicolas came in and immediately struck out the first two Chicago hitters. Nicolas then hit the next batter to load the bases with two outs. He then walked the next three hitters to force in three runs to make it 6-4.

Nicolas was lifted for Josh Fleming, who quickly walked the next batter to make it 6-5. Fleming then allowed an infield single which tied the game at 6.

The storm clouds then opened which caused a stoppage in play and ended the madness…temporarily.

After a two-plus hour rain delay, Colin Holderman took the mound and immediately walked the next two Cubs batters to make it 8-6, visitors.

If you’re counting at home, that’s six bases-loaded walks in one inning, the most in Major League Baseball in 65 years.

What did I tell ya’? Do these Buccos know how to host a party or what?

Believe it or not, after all the wildness in the top of the fifth that included the walks, the chants of “Fire {Derek} Shelton!” (for lifting Skenes), the two-hour-and-twenty-minute rain-delay, and the seven runs that turned a five-run advantage into a two-run deficit, the Buccos managed to answer in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Veteran catcher Yasmani Grandal, recently activated after starting the season on the IL, launched a three-run homer over the Clemente Wall in right field to put the Pirates back on top by a score of 9-8.

Andrew McCutchen hit a solo shot to straightaway centerfield in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Pirates a 10-8 advantage.

Would they hold on? They did, by a score of 10-9, as closer David Bednar got the final out with the tying run on third base in the top of the ninth inning.


Skenes obviously didn’t get the win, which was too bad since he was just three outs away from qualifying.

But it could have been worse: The Pirates could have gotten the loss.


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