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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis CardinalsJun 11, 2024; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Paul Skenes (30) pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the second inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Paul Skenes has been so impressive in his first six starts, even fans of opposing teams have taken to giving him standing ovations.

Skenes (3-0, 2.43 ERA) will be back in front of his home crowd on Monday when the Pirates begin a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.

Pittsburgh took two of three games from the Colorado Rockies in Denver over the weekend, while Cincinnati has lost four of its last six.

The Reds face a formidable challenge against Skenes after losing 5-4 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.

The 22-year-old right-hander owns a 46-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio across his first 33 1/3 innings.

“You can tell he’s confident, aggressive, pounding the zone,” Pirates infielder Connor Joe said. “It’s really, really fun to play defense behind him. He’s just attacking, confident and keeping us off the field, in the dugout, which is great. So, really, really fun to watch him and see him do his thing.”

Skenes struck out eight over 6 1/3 scoreless innings in a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last Tuesday. A number of fans at Busch Stadium stood and applauded when Skenes exited after throwing a career-high 103 pitches.

“He was extremely efficient,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “Overall, he was very impressive. We continue to see growth out of Paul.”

The Pirates have gone 5-1 in Skenes’ starts. He is making his first appearance against the Reds.

Right-hander Carson Spiers (0-0, 2.33) will make his first start this season for Cincinnati. The 26-year-old rookie has made five relief appearances , including an impressive showing against the Chicago Cubs on June 9.

Spiers allowed four hits and struck out seven over 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Cubs.

“What he’s showing, he can pitch in any spot,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Really good action on his pitches. Great mix of pitches — four or five different pitches that he can throw for strikes, which is so important. And they all have really good movement on them.”

Spiers, who made two starts for the Reds last season, is making his first appearance against the Pirates.

Cincinnati shortstop Elly De La Cruz is making a push for his first All-Star selection while batting .235 with 12 home runs, 31 RBIs and 36 steals. He homered, tripled and scored three runs on Sunday.

De La Cruz, whose steals lead the majors, said he’s not concerned about his All-Star chances.

“I don’t think about that. I’m just playing every day, enjoying the game every day, trying to do my job every day,” De La Cruz said. “It would mean a lot. I mean, I want to be there. But I don’t think about it.”

Pittsburgh welcomed shortstop Oneil Cruz back to the lineup on Sunday after he missed two games with ankle soreness. Cruz singled, doubled and scored two runs in the Pirates’ 8-2 win on Sunday.

Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds begins the series with a 14-game hitting streak, which is the longest active streak in the majors.

Reynolds is hitting .339 (20-for-59) with two home runs, eight RBIs and eight runs during his streak.

–Field Level Media

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