The journey was short-lived, but left-hander Tyler Skaggs made the most of a brief experience.
Called up from Triple A Reno to start game one of Monday’s doubleheader because of an injury to Ian Kennedy, Skaggs responded with the kind of effort worthy of attention.
For six strong innings, the 21 year-old left-hander limited the Texas Rangers to three hits, walked none and struck out nine hitters. That earned a 5-3 victory over the Rangers before 30,638 in the opener, and left a calling card for Kevin Towers, the Diamondbacks general manager and field manager Kirk Gibson.
Contesting for the final spot in the rotation during spring training, Skaggs’ production fell short of expectation. The job was eventually won by Patrick Corbin, whose 8-0 record is worthy of All-Star consideration.
Repaired to Triple A Reno, Skaggs went about his business to claim the attention Towers and Gibson. Based on his effort Monday afternoon, he succeeded.
“I always felt comfortable and confident,” Skaggs said. “Right now, I feel good and it’s all good.”
With Kennedy scratched, Skaggs was recalled from the Aces and given a start in the pinch. In response, Skaggs turned in the kind effort Diamondbacks officials hoped to see and expected in spring training. Instead, Skaggs will return to Reno with a burning memory.
Key to his successful effort over the Rangers was an effective change and curve. Constantly getting his breaking pitches over, Skaggs struck out Rangers’ power hitters Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz, each twice. Against Skaggs, the Rangers managed to have two runners reach base in the same inning only twice
The nine punch outs was a major league career best for Skaggs, who fanned 10 in his latest Triple A effort against Round Rock on May 22.
“The change was his big pitch,” said catcher Wil Nieves. “Plus, his deception was good. The ball was leaving his hand at the same level whether it was a fast ball or curve.”
Despite maladies in spring training, Skaggs said his confidence level never waned. He approached the Reno assignment as educational and knew, based on production, his time in the major league would come again.
“I used spring training to work out some problems,” he said. “The change and curve were two areas and now I’m throwing the curve for strikes. I’m happy they have confidence in me and happy I was called up.”
For the game, Diamondbacks pitchers of Will Harris, David Hernandez, Tony Sipp, Heath Bell and Skaggs recorded a season-high 15 strikeouts. Striking out 15 times was also a season high for Rangers hitters.
Complementing Skaggs, the Arizona offense scored one in the first and a double from A. J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt’s single in the second produced a 3-0 lead after two innings.
Later, Cody Ross drilled his second home run of the season in the fifth, and Eric Hinske’s pinch hit double in the eighth scored Nieves, who walked.
A three spot by the Rangers in the ninth put in a scare into Skaggs’ effort. With one out and the tying runners on first and second, Bell then fanned Cruz and induced Mitch Moreland to ground out to end the game.
IN THE NIGHTCAP
If Corbin excelled in the opener, the Diamondbacks displayed more sparkle in the second game.
For the second time this season, and the third in his career, Cliff Pennington drilled the game winner with a single scoring Miguel Montero in the bottom of the ninth to give the Diamondbacks a 5-4 win over the Rangers in the second game.
In what looked like a split of the twin-bill, the D-backs appeared to succumb to Rangers’ ace Yu Darvish.
After Darvish allowed two, first inning runs, the Rangers responded with single runs in the second and fourth and two spot in the sixth. Through the first seven innings, Darvish was cruising, surrendered five hits into the eighth inning and approached a career mark in strikeouts. He finished with 14 strikeouts, the third time this season Darvish reached that level.
In the eighth, the Diamondbacks worked their magic.
Wil Nieves lead off and looped a single to left. With one out, Didi Gregorius laced a two run homer over the right center field fence to tie the game and send wonder in the air.
Then, Pennington’s heroics.
Montero led off the ninth with a double into the right field corner and after A. J. Pollock struck out, pinch hitter Martin Prado was walked intentionally. That brought up Pennington, who found daylight between first baseman Mitch Moreland and the line for a single to right and his second walk-out hit of the season.
In the third game of the season, Pennington’s single in the 16th inning beat the Cardinals, 10-9. This time, he managed to solve Rangers’ left-hander reliever Robbie Ross.
“I faced (Ross) before and he has a nasty cutter in to hitters,” Pennington said. “There was not way I was going to pull the pitch and went with it to the right side. That’s a great situation to be in and everyone wants to do it every time.”
A DAY AND NIGHT OF BASEBALL
For the separate admissions doubleheader, the Diamondbacks drew 54,261. That included 30,639 for the day game and 23,622 for the night-cap.
That’s in comparison to the previous doubleheader in Chase Field history. That was played last Aug. 22 against the Marlins. For separate admissions, the total was 37,266.
In game one, Martin Prado triggered the offense with a first inning single that drove in Paul Goldschmidt.
That gave the D-backs an early 1-0 lead and they proceeded to build on Prado’s production. That was Prado’s seventh straight hit and tied a franchise record for seven straight hits. Prado’s achievement marked the fifth time this was accomplished, and the last by Eric Byrnes June 19-20, 2007. … Later, Prado fouled a pitch off the inside of his right knee in the first game and was scratched for game two. In manager Kirk Gibson’s preparation, Prado was to start both games, and after game two, Gibson said Prado was simply sore with no initial damage.
Righfielder Gerardo Parra left the second game in the fifth with a calf cramp to his left leg. At the time, Parra was 1-for-2 after a 2-for-4 effort in the opener.
The sweep was the fifth for the Diamondbacks in their history, and the last was over the Marlins Aug. 22 of last season.