Skenes vs. Ohtani – The beginning of an MLB rivalry

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HomeBlogsChris Sloan's blogSkenes vs. Ohtani – The beginning of an MLB rivalry
Chris Sloan

There is nothing like a heated rivalry to add complex layers of intensity to a sport. Sometimes rivalries are just based on pure generational talent and mutual respect. Regardless of their cause, rivalries act as fantastic subplots that add to the excitement and drama of sports, and a potentially new rivalry in MLB is bubbling along nicely.

Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani could have a new nemesis in Major League Baseball. This would be the Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Paul Skenes who brought the heat when the two had their first big showdown in June.

The hype

Part of the Ohtani versus Skenes hype comes from the respective status of the two players. Ohtani has proven experience as a superstar talent, and plays as both a pitcher and a hitter. He is now up against the next potential future star of the MLB, pitcher Paul Skenes. So, it is a touch of the old versus new, a classic newcomer versus legend scenario, and people like to see an underdog knock an established name off their perch.

Who is Ohtani?

Dodgers’ designated hitter Shohei Ohtani is one of the superstars of modern baseball. The Japan international is in his sixth season in the top tier and was rookie of the year back in 2018 with his first franchise, the Los Angeles Angels.

The two-time unanimous MLB MVP moved across the city to the Dodgers for the 2024 season, locking down a 10-year, $700m contract for himself in the process. Ohtani had the star power to immediately shift the odds on the Dodgers winning the World Series when his trade was confirmed.

Who is Skenes?

Paul Skenes was the number one pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, and he was immediately credited with a huge signing bonus to the tune of more than $9m, which was not quite a record, but the third-highest signing bonus for a drafted player.

With his skills during his youth career honed playing for Air Force before transferring to LSU, Skenes became the Most Outstanding Player in the 2023 Men’s College World Series. He stepped out for his professional MLB debut in May 2024. With 100mph fastballs up his sleeve, the pitcher has the makings of a star.

The first showdown

The first meeting between Skenes and Ohtani naturally attracted extra interest from fans, neutrals and bettors. With acca betting on the moneyline of MLB matches being a popular option at sportsbooks, there may have been an inclination to include a winner of the duel in a parlay bet simply due to all the hype.

In just his fifth MLB appearance, right-hander Paul Skenes and the Pirates hosted the Dodgers in June. It immediately wasn't so much about the match-up, or even the result really, it was all about the battle between Ohtani and Skenes.

There is a little more context to this as the LA Dodgers have three of the best hitters in the league in the form of Ohtani, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. The pressure that Skenes faced with this triple threat just piled on the expectancy of something special happening at PNC Park. Skenes first faced Betts and threw out a fastball clocked at 101mph to open with. He delivered another on his second ball. On his fourth pitch, he beat Betts with a slider to strike him out.

In comes Ohtani

The dismissal of Betts brought Ohtani to the plate. 22-year-old Skenes then produced something staggering as he brought the heat in emphatic style. It took him less than 60 seconds to strike out Ohtani, with three triple-digit fastballs that the hitter simply couldn’t play.

Ohtani put everything into his swings, looking as if he wanted to hit the rookie out of the park, but he whiffed on all three attempts, which left the crowd stunned as the superstar scurried back to the bench.

Round two of Ohtani-at-bat

The crowd would have to wait patiently to get the second round of Skenes vs Ohtani-at-bat. Having faced him already, would Ohtani figure out the pitcher and send him to the fences? Not on the first pitch, as he was beaten again by a 100mph fastball.

He was again left bemused when he was beaten high in the slot for strike two, but then the tables turned. On his final pitch, Skenes sent another high-octane fastball high into the zone, but Ohtani connected and connected well. The ball sailed over center field and the wall too for a home run.

It’s big on big

Part of what makes Shohei Ohtani special is his ability to adjust and react to what he is facing. He again connected with a high fastball when he faced Skenes for round three. This time he sent the ball for a single after seeing his teammates Betts and Freeman dismissed by the pitcher in the inning.

After such a rough start against the pace, angle and release that Skenes was delivering, Ohtani quickly pieced the puzzle together. Very often much-hyped events don’t live up to their billing, but Ohtani versus Skenes did in no uncertain manner. It was simply big talent vs big talent, with each getting their piece of a very special occasion.

So, who won?

Pittsburgh took a 10-6 win in the match, but with the homer, Ohtani took the first battle between the two players, but only at the individual level. At the game level, Skenes won hands down as he managed to largely tame the best batting lineup in the league.

Next meeting

The first Skenes versus Ohtani clash was electric. It was everything that fans could have hoped for when booking their tickets. The next meeting will happen in August when the Pirates head out west to Dodger Stadium

That will be a totally different atmosphere for Skenes to handle himself in. While it’s still early on in the season, it looks as if the rookie fits the bill to be a rival for Ohtani for seasons to come.

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About Chris Sloan

Chris Sloan is a former baseball league commissioner and travel baseball coach who has made significant contributions to the sport. In 2018, he founded selectbaseballteams.com, a website that helps parents find youth and travel baseball teams in their local areas. Since its launch, the website has experienced impressive growth, offering a wealth of resources including teams, news, tournaments, and organizations. Chris's unwavering passion for baseball and his innovative approach to connecting parents with quality baseball programs have earned him a respected reputation in the baseball community, solidifying his legacy as a leading figure in the world of youth and travel baseball.

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