Pirates rookie Paul Skenes faces Cardinals for first time

Pittsburgh Pirates rookie right-hander Paul Skenes will look to put the Cardinals on their heels Tuesday night when the National League Central rivals open a three-game series in St. Louis.

Skenes (3-0, 3.00 ERA) will feature both his triple-digit fastball and his “splinker” — a combination split-finger fastball and sinker — when he takes the mound opposite fellow right-hander Miles Mikolas (4-6, 5.32).

The light continued to shine bright on the 6-foot-6 Skenes in his last outing.

The top overall pick of the 2023 MLB Draft overcame a pair of homers and three runs total to strike out eight batters in five innings during Pittsburgh’s 10-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Skenes worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam to end a threat in the fifth, to boot.

“Good composure,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said of the 22-year-old Skenes. “He’s going to give up home runs, but when you have an error and you load the bases, and again, having to grind through this lineup, it’s not easy. There’s All-Stars throughout it. So very impressed with how composed he stayed.”

Skenes, who has yet to face the Cardinals in his young career, has struck out 38 batters against only nine walks in 27 innings this season. In addition, Pittsburgh’s offense has aided him by averaging a robust nine runs over his five starts.

“I don’t know why,” Andrew McCutchen told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, when asked recently about the team’s success on offense with the rookie on the mound. “Let’s figure it out so we can keep doing it with everyone on the mound.”

The Pirates have scored 19 runs in their last four games but only have two wins to show for it. They dropped an 11-5 decision in 10 innings against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.

Nick Gonzalez continued his torrid hitting with a pair of singles on Sunday. He is batting .310 with four homers and 23 RBIs since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on May 10.

Like Skenes, Mikolas also overcame two homers to emerge victorious in his last start. He allowed just those two runs on five hits in six innings in St. Louis’ 4-2 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

“He’s been commanding the baseball really well,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said of Mikolas. “He’s been at the bottom a lot more. His mix has been good. He’s made some small adjustments. For the most part he’s just in control of every at-bat. There’s a purpose behind what he’s throwing and it’s looked really good.”

Mikolas, 35, is 5-6 with a 3.08 ERA in 21 career appearances (18 starts) against Pittsburgh.

Alec Burleson belted a solo homer on Sunday as St. Louis recorded a 5-1 win over the Colorado Rockies in the deciding game of the three-game series. The homer was Burleson’s fourth in his last eight games.

Rookie Masyn Wynn had two hits and two RBIs on Sunday to boost his total to 10 and four, respectively, over his last seven games.

–Field Level Media