Paul Skenes, Jared Jones making Pirates a must-watch (and potentially terrifying) team

    If you’re a Pittsburgh Pirates fan under 40, you may have spent most of your fandom attending their home games for reasons other than the baseball.

    Maybe it is the view from PNC Park, Major League Baseball’s best ballpark. Or perhaps it’s the monthly postgame fireworks display or a promotional giveaway. Or perhaps it’s the latest ballpark food monstrosity, such as this year’s Renegade Hot Dog, a foot-long sausage topped with pulled pork, pierogi and pickles (it’s good if you get one made fresh).

    But the game itself? The result? All of that has usually been secondary, merely background noise to a fun night out with friends or family. That is what 11 winning seasons in 45 years and mostly apathetic and negligent ownership does to a fan base. You stop caring. You stop having expectations. Over the past couple weeks, however, you can sense a dramatic shift in attitude toward the team and the expectations around it. 

    The Pirates are becoming a must-watch team and it is almost entirely due to the emergence of their  flame-throwing pitchers, 22-year-old starters Jared Jones and Paul Skenes. The two are not only making the Pirates a must-watch team, they could be turning it into something terrifying for the rest of the league – if management can capitalize on its pair of aces. 

    Against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first two games of a three-game series this week, the talent of the Pirates’ young pitchers was on full display. 

    On Tuesday, Jones tossed six shutout innings in a 1-0 Pirates win. On Wednesday, Skenes pitched five innings, striking out eight and consistently topping 100 mph on his fastball in a 10-6 Pirates victory that earned them a series win.

    In 11 innings against a lineup full of former MVPs, future Hall of Famers and All-Stars, Jones and Skenes combined to allow three earned runs while striking out 14 and at times looked overpowering. The latter game was the one that underscored the potential of this pitching staff and the lightning bolt of energy it has sent through the fan base and city.

    From the moment you walked across the Roberto Clemente Bridge into PNC Park, the game had a  different feel from most Pirates games. Fans were not just excited to be at the stadium. They were excited to see the game and a pitcher who is already one of baseball’s most electrifying players.

    The excitement carried into the first inning, when Skenes struck out Mookie Betts and Shohei Ohtani on seven pitches. He got the latter by throwing three straight 100-mph-plus fastballs by the 2023 AL MVP, bringing the crowd out of the seats.

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