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Paul Skenes blows away Shohei Ohtani, who returns the favor in his next at-bat

In Sports
June 06, 2024
Paul Skenes has looked like a monster so far in his MLB career. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Paul Skenes has looked like a monster so far in his MLB career. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Paul Skenes vs. Shohei Ohtani is the kind of matchup that can sell an entire game. It more than lived up to its billing in Wednesday’s matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Skenes took the mound against the NL West-leading Dodgers for the fifth start of his career and began on a dominant note, striking out Mookie Betts on four pitches. He then faced Ohtani, and what happened next can only be described as violence.

First pitch: 101.3 mph swinging strike.

Second pitch: 100.1 mph swinging strike (with a foul tip).

Third pitch: 100.8 mph swinging strike.

You might never see Ohtani look as overmatched as he did here.

Skenes proceeded to get Freddie Freeman out on a fly ball to end the inning.

The Skenes-Ohtani rematch came in the third, with the Pirates up 7-0 after a disaster inning for Dodgers starting pitcher James Paxton. Skenes got another swinging strike with a 99.6 mph first-pitch fastball, then ran the count full.

Having gotten five swinging strikes on six fastballs to Ohtani so far, Skenes went back to the fastball yet again for the payoff pitch. But this time Ohtani was ready for it, sending it 415 feet into the batter’s eye in center field.

Per MLB.com’s Sarah Langs, that 100.1 mph fastball was the fastest pitch Ohtani has homered on in his career.

Ohtani won the third round as well, pulling a 98.1 mph fastball for a one-out single in the fifth inning. Skenes finished his day with five innings pitched, three earned runs, six hits, one walk and eight strikeouts, getting the win in a 10-6 victory for the Pirates.

That is some fun baseball, possibly for no one more than Skenes. While he is known as a flame-throwing monster on the mound, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2023 MLB Draft was once known for his own two-way abilities as a hitter and pitcher. While at the Air Force Academy, Skenes won the John Olerud Award as the nation’s top two-way player in 2022 before he transferred to LSU and focused on pitching.

As he told MLB.com’s Alex Stumpf, he idolized Ohtani during that stretch of his career:

“I grew up watching him,” Skenes said. “As a two-way guy, that was what I was trying to be before I got drafted. He was an inspiration in a lot of ways.”

Skenes got to see one side of that talent up close and personal Wednesday, with mixed results.

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