Pirates' Paul Skenes throws 7 no-hit innings, ties career high with 11 strikeouts

The rookie sensation made a convincing case to start for the National League in the All-Star Game

Could Pittsburgh Pirates phenom Paul Skenes start for the National League in next week's MLB All-Star Game? The rookie made a very convincing case to get the nod in Thursday's 1–0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Skenes allowed no hits over seven innings and tied a career high with 11 strikeouts. He threw 99 pitches on the day.

The right-hander retired the last 16 batters he faced Thursday. The only inning in which he had a hint of trouble was the second, when he hit Jake Bauers with a pitch and walked Garrett Mitchell. Skenes struck out Andruw Monasterio to end the inning.

Milwaukee came close to putting a hit on the board in the seventh, when Willy Adames hit a fly ball to center field. Both second baseman Nick Gonzales and center fielder Jack Suwinski closed in on the ball, looking like they might collide on the play. Then Suwinski ducked out of the way, and Gonzales made the catch.

Colin Holderman took over for Skenes in the eighth and gave up a hit to Bauers to lead off the inning. Prior to that, Yasmani Grandal drove Suwinski in with a one-out double to give Pittsburgh its only run of the game and Skenes the win.

Brewers manager Pat Murphy said the strategy was to run Skenes' pitch count up, but the rookie adjusted.

"He realized where it was going," Murphy told reporters after the game. "Sixty-three pitches in three innings, he realized, 'OK, I gotta do something a little different,' and he did. And that's when you gotta get some hits off him. But credit to him ... he was dynamite."

As could be expected, many Pirates fans were upset Skenes was pulled while he had a no-hitter going, but manager Derek Shelton has been consistent in keeping the rookie around 100 pitches per outing.

Skenes said he was fine with whatever Shelton decided after the seventh.

"I wasn't going to be surprised either way, if he sent me out or pulled me," Skenes told MLB Network. "Obviously, in a 1–0 game, you want to stay in there, you want to finish it. But the volume's getting up there a little bit, so I get it."

It was the second time in his 11 starts Skenes has thrown at least six hitless frames and the third start in which he hasn't allowed a run. He previously allowed no hits in the second start of his MLB career on May 17 against the Chicago Cubs.

That put Skenes in exclusive company with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers with multiple outings of six or more innings with no hits and 11 or more strikeouts. Ryan did that in 1973, his seventh major-league season.

Thursday's start was Skenes' eighth consecutive appearance in which he struck out at least seven, the longest such streak for a pitcher in Pirates history.

Skenes was named to the NL All-Star team this past Sunday, one of two Pirates to earn a spot on the roster, along with outfielder Bryan Reynolds. The question going into Tuesday's Midsummer Classic is whether Skenes should be the NL's starting pitcher.

"From a standpoint of excitement, yeah — and stuff and raw talent, probably yes," Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz told Fox Sports. "I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that he could start, based on the timing of what other pitchers are able to do or not able to do."

Although he has made only 11 starts since being called up to the majors, Skenes has arguably been the best pitcher in MLB. (That would be the fewest games started for an All-Star, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.) The rookie has been a marquee attraction, a must-see sensation who rallies fans to watch every time he pitches.

Perhaps most important, Skenes' rotation schedule lines up ideally for him to pitch Tuesday.

Chris Sale of the Atlanta Braves (12–3, 2.74 ERA) will start Sunday, which eliminates him from consideration. Los Angeles Dodgers starter Tyler Glasnow (8–5, 3.47) went on the injured list this week due to back tightness. Zack Wheeler (10–4, 2.70) is also scheduled to start Sunday, but the Philadelphia Phillies might rest him after he left his start Tuesday due to lower back tightness. Ranger Suárez (10–3, 2.58) could be in consideration, and he pitches Friday.

For the season, Skenes has a 1.91 ERA in 11 starts with a 6–0 record and 89 strikeouts in 66 innings. If he gets the All-Star starting nod, he'd be the fourth rookie to receive that honor.