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Mar 31, 2024 6:02 am

Pirates go for surprising sweep in Miami

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While the Pittsburgh Pirates look for a four-game sweep to open the season against the host Miami Marlins on Sunday, much of the talk around the team was about a player who isn’t yet on the roster.

On Saturday, the Pirates beat the Marlins 9-3 behind 10 strikeouts from 22-year-old Jared Jones, a right-hander making his major league debut.

But also on Saturday, in Louisville, Ky., Pirates prospect Paul Skenes — the top-rated pitcher and No. 3 prospect overall according to MLB Pipeline — tossed three perfect innings for Triple-A Indianapolis.

That got the Pirates’ clubhouse talking about the Bucs’ bright future on the mound.

“I can already tell Skenes knows he belongs here,” said veteran Mitch Keller, the Pirates’ Opening Day starter. “Jones knows he belongs here. It’s exciting.”

Pirates manager Derek Shelton was impressed by Jones’ coolness in his debut on Saturday.

“That’s a good lineup, and to execute pitches the way (Jones) did, was very impressive,” Shelton said. “But what’s also nice is what we can do organizationally. This kid has weapons, and we saw it today.

“We should be excited, because this is a guy that we drafted and developed.”

Jones said his nerves were gone after he retired Marlins leadoff man Luis Arraez on a soft liner to left field on his second pitch. Arraez won his second straight batting title last season with a .354 average.

“It’s awesome, I couldn’t have written a better script,” Jones said. “I was just walking around before the first pitch, doing my normal routine, then I got him (Arraez) out, and he’s a batting champion. I was confident after that.”

On Sunday, Shelton will hand the ball to soft-tossing left-hander Bailey Falter, who allowed a team-high 14 runs and six homers in 16 Grapefruit League innings pitched.

Falter is 2-0 with a 4.00 ERA in six career games (three starts) against Miami, with two walks, 10 strikeouts and three homers allowed in 18 innings. Falter has also given up two homers and four RBIs to Josh Bel prior to the latter joining the Marlins.

He’ll be opposed by Miami left-hander Trevor Rogers, who pitched to a 2.64 ERA in 2021 before inconsistency and injuries plagued him the last two seasons.

Rogers threw 8-2/3 innings in spring training, allowing three runs and striking out 10. He has made two career starts against Pittsburgh, with a 3.18 ERA on five walks and 12 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.

The Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen has handled Rogers well in the past, going 6-for-12 with three homers and six RBIs against the lefty.

McCutchen went 0-for-9 with five strikeouts in the first two games of this series before taking the day off Saturday.

Arraez is off to a slow start, too. He was 0-for-13 before connecting on a soft single to right field off Hunter Stratton in the seventh inning Saturday.

Rogers will hope to shorten the Pirates’ at-bats, something that eluded Miami left-hander Ryan Weathers on Saturday.

“I was making a lot of quality pitches,” Weathers said. “They just had a lot of good ABs today, just had several ABs that were just long, and if you leave one pitch over the heart of the plate, that turns into base hits. … Just my pitch count ran up quickly.”

Miami fell to 0-3 for the first time since 2015, while the Pirates are off to their first 3-0 start since 2018.

–Field Level Media

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