No time like the present to step up and be noticed.
Since Diamondbacks’ starters have been less than productive for most of the first half of the season, there’s no reason why Tyler Skaggs could not stop the bleeding.
Despite a blazing start from left-hander Patrick Corbin, the 23 year-old lefty has not won since early June. Otherwise, there’s no consistent pattern and starters appeared to be on life support.
Combined, the starters have achieved under a .500 level. Consider Ian Kennedy, Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill, Randal Delgado and Wade Miley have combined to record a mark of 21-26.
Up at the major league level for the second time this season, Skaggs entered his Friday assignment against Colorado with a 1-1 record in three starts, and was immediately sent to Reno after losing to the Giants back on June 9.
Upon his return Friday night, Skaggs seized the opportunity and was more than effective. In eight strong innings of work, Skaggs allowed four base runners (three harmless singles and walk), and was taken out after 103 pitches, 65 for strikes.
The result was a 5-0 win over the Colorado Rockies before a sellout crowd of 45,505, and extended the team’s winning streak to three games. The victory also increased to D-backs lead over the Rockies to three and one-half game in National League West.
At one point, Skaggs retired 12 in a row and allowed one base runner, a two out walk to Nolan Arenado in the fifth, from the first to seventh inning. For the game, no Colorado runner reached second base.
Aside from a creditable performance, Skaggs saved a taxed bullpen.
J. J. Putz, who came off the disabled list on June 29 with a strained right elbow, turned in a perfect 1-2-3 ninth inning and gave needed rest to David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, Tony Sipp, Heath Bell and Will Harris.
The return engagement of Skaggs back to the major level was no accident. With specific instructions to work on fast command at Reno, Skaggs returned and delivered.
“The key was fast ball command and throwing the first pitch for a strike,” Skaggs said. “First pitch for a strike is the biggest pitch in any count, and I worked on that (in Reno).”
From Skaggs, this was the effort the organization expected and waited.
“He threw strikes on both sides of the plate and his change was electric,” said manager Kirk Gibson. “He gave us what the bullpen needed, time off.”
Asked about Skaggs future, Gibson smiled, “after (Friday night), do you want me to send him back to the minors?”
At Reno, general manager Kevin Towers visited Skaggs often and with instructions. Whatever message was delivered, Gibson told reporters Skaggs came away with confidence and renewed purpose.
Support came from A. J. Pollock, who went 2-for-3, three runs scored and chipped in with a double and triple. Paul Goldschmidt knocked in a pair with single and double and his current 71 RBIs is the third most in franchise history into the All-Star break.
Goldschmidt still has nine games for the mid-summer classic and only Luis Gonzalez (86 in 2001) and Matt Williams (82 in 1999) had more.
Plus, Aaron Hill contributed a 2-for-4 night with a pair of RBIs.
“Very nice win, but we need to take these one at a time,” Hill said. “This team has a done a great job of bouncing back. Coming off a tough road trip, this felt good.”
MORE HARD LUCK
X-rays revealed a fractured left hand and torn tendons in the hand, and the season is now effectively shorten for infielder Willie Bloomquist.
Sporting a cast on his hand, Bloomquist spoke with reporters after Friday’s game, and his tone was down.
“Just another obstacle to overcome,” he said. “At this point, I can only help this heals quickly.”
Bloomquist reported the fracture was similar sustained by Aaron Hill, who spent April 15 to June 25 on the DL with a fractured left hand. Bloomquist was hit on the left wrist June 26 in Washington by the Nats’ Tyler Clippard.
At this point, Bloomquist’s time on the disabled list would last six to eight weeks, and that would effectively put him on the sidelines until at least Labor Day.
In the final year of a two year contract signed before the 2012 season, Bloomquist’s future with the Diamondbacks could be in jeopardy. For nearly the next two months, manager Kirk Gibson loses Bloomquist’s versatility and intensity.
With an extended period on the DL, the team could activate Bloomquist after the September 1 call up date. That’s when major league rosters can be expanded to 40 players.
A SPECIAL MOMENT
Prior to Friday night’s game, the Diamondbacks paid tribute to the 19 firefighters who fell battling in the Yarnell fire.
The moving ceremony included a 19 second moment of silence and “Amazing Grace” performed by the Arizona Fire Service Bagpipe and Drum Band. The group included more than 45 firefighters from throughout the state of Arizona. The number “19” was painted on the field behind home plate, and receipts from the daily 50-50 raffle will benefit families affected by the tragedy.
“We’re always trying to do something to honor those who put their lives on the line for us,” said manager Kirk Gibson. “You can’t replace those you lose, but we can remember their spirit.”
If the sellout crowd appreciated the tribute, participants were equally moved.
“The ceremony was well done and lights out,” Gibson said. “We were emotionally moved and that lifted us. That’s something we needed.”
ROCKIES IN THE RACE
Coming into this weekend play, all five teams in the National League Western Division were within four and one-half games of each other.
While the Diamondbacks sit atop the division, the Rockies are two and one-half out, the Dodgers are three and one-half back, and Padres and Giants are four and one-half game behind.
Starting Friday night in Chase Field, the Rockies embark on a 10 game road trip to Chase Field, San Diego and Dodger Stadium. Meanwhile, the D-backs have three with the Rox and then the Dodgers visit the desert for three.
Regarding the chase for the pennant, the formula remains somewhat simple.
“Health is always a factor and the team which stays healthy usually has a good chance,” said Colorado manager Walt Weiss before Friday’s season opener against the Diamondbacks. “Whoever executes well will win the division.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
For former Arizona State University standout first baseman Ike Davis, the future at the major league remains uncertain.
Demoted from the Mets roster and sent to Triple A Las Vegas on June 10, Davis was hitting .163 (41-135) in 54 games.
Now, the Mets have given Davis a new lease on life and recalled the 26 year old from the minors. He joined the Mets Friday when they embarked on a 10 game road trip in Milwaukee.
Prior to the Mets game with the Diamondbacks Thursday in Citi Field, New York manager Terry Collins told reporters he had no idea about Davis’ major league future, “no time table,” he said.
Shockingly, Collins had to have some idea because the New York made the transaction after the game Thursday.
Coming in this season, Davis sported a career .252 average in parts of three seasons with Mets. That included 58 home runs and 186 RBIs. Last season, Davis hit only .227 but smashed 32 homers and knocked in 90 runs.
With Tyler Skaggs starting Friday night and possibly get additional starts, the Diamondbacks made two moves Friday to strengthen the overall pitching staff.
First, the team demoted reliever Chaz Roe back to Triple A Reno, and moved Skaggs to the major league roster. Roe had a blown save Thursday against the Mets but managed to secure his first major league win. That’s when Cliff Pennington drove in the game-winner in the 15th inning.
As well, the Diamondbacks recalled pitcher Charles Brewer from the Aces and for Brewer, a Scottsdale native, this is his second cup of coffee with the major league team this season.
Brewer will be used as a long reliever and could be tapped as a spot starter.
To make room for Brewer, the D-backs sent outfielder Tony Campana back to Reno.