Paul Skenes, Pirates aim for series win over Giants

Opponents are already running out of superlatives to describe Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes, who has shown flashes of brilliance in his first two career starts.

The Pirates will turn to Skenes (1-0, 2.70 ERA) on Thursday when they face the visiting San Francisco Giants in the rubber match of a three-game series.

San Francisco evened the series after rallying from a five-run deficit to win 9-5 in 10 innings on Wednesday.

Matt Chapman homered for the second straight game and LaMonte Wade Jr. reached base six times for the Giants, who bounced back after losing Tuesday’s series opener 7-6 in 10 innings.

“This was a really big game for us,” Giants manager Bob Melvin said after Wednesday’s victory. “If we come back and don’t win that game, it’s almost like losing another really, really, really tough game.”

The Giants will get their first look at Skenes, who struck out 11 batters over six no-hit innings in a 9-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs last Friday.

The 21-year-old right-hander fanned his first seven batters and featured a dazzling five-pitch repertoire.

“It’s a big boy throwing a heavy baseball,” Chicago outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong said. “He does a really good job with mixing and everything. But it’s tough to hit anybody that throws 100-plus with two to three really good secondary pitches and a sinker that moves like a changeup at 95.”

San Francisco is expected to counter with right-hander Mason Black (0-1, 7.71), who allowed four runs over three innings against the Colorado Rockies last Friday.

The 24-year-old rookie has given up 10 runs across 11 2/3 innings in his first three career games. He is making his first appearance against Pittsburgh.

The Giants have received a boost offensively from Chapman, who is batting .611 (11-for-18) with two home runs, five doubles and five RBIs in his last five games.

Chapman is heating up after struggling at the plate in the first six weeks with his new club. He signed a one-year contract with the Giants in March.

“He can get a little streaky at times, and now you’re seeing what he has to offer,” Melvin said. “He draws walks, not trying to do too much. He’s getting better balls to hit and using the whole field. Typically, that’s what he does when he’s swinging the bat well. But this is who he is. He’s made a nice career for himself.

The Pirates are seeing similar results from veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who is showing signs of leaving his slow start behind. He is batting .333 (13-for-39) with three homers and six RBIs in his last 10 games.

“This guy went through a week or 10 days of having the worst luck of any human being on the planet,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “It seemed like everything he squared up was getting caught and now balls are starting to fall in for him a little bit.

“The quality of the at-bat has been really good over the past month and I think that’s the most important thing. I think we’re starting to see the fruits of it in the batting average because balls are starting to fall.”

–Field Level Media