For about a month, Tyler Skaggs has been mowing down Pacific Coast League hitters and piling up the strikeouts. The dominant stretch culminated Saturday night.
The D-backs' top prospect recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts while giving up four hits and three walks over 8 1/3 innings as Triple-A Reno edged Sacramento, 1-0, at Raley Field.
On May 22, Skaggs (6-6) fanned 10 over 7 2/3 frames in a win over Round Rock. In four PCL starts since then, he's struck out at least seven batters three times.
"Everything felt pretty good, fastball command was good, I was pitching inside pretty well and the changeup felt good," he said. "I think the best pitch though was the curveball, throwing it for strikes and bouncing it 0-2. At the time, I didn't even know how many [strikeouts] I had, I wasn't think about it. But looking back at it after the game, it's pretty cool.
"It was one of those days where I just felt locked in. I had my best stuff today, hitting spots and listening to the catcher. Catcher knows best."
In Skaggs' first five starts of the season, he topped five strikeouts just once. He's done it in seven of his last nine outings. The 13 strikeouts eclipsed his previous high, accomplished most recently on April 20, 2012.
While it might not be reflected in his 4.26 ERA, the 21-year-old left-hander -- who's made three starts this year for Arizona -- might be a much more dangerous pitcher than he was a year ago.
In 2012, he recorded a 2.91 ERA in nine starts for the Aces after notching a 2.84 ERA in 13 starts for Double-A Mobile. Between those two stops, however, he struck out 8.53 batters per nine innings. This year, he's averaging 10.30 strikeouts per nine innings.
"All the experience is helpful. I feel like a more mature pitcher this year, even though I haven't put up the greatest numbers," Skaggs said. "I feel like I'm throwing the ball just as well, going out there, game by game, pitch by pitch."
He's also allowed homers at a slightly less frequent rate. So, while a few rough starts early in the season have left his ERA looking a little inflated, his peripherals suggest a pitcher -- MLB.com's No. 9 overall prospect -- who has taken a step forward.
Saturday was Skaggs' longest outing of the season. And while he said he wanted to record those final two outs, he acknowledged that Aces manager Brett Butler made the right call.
"It was frustrating because you know you wanna get those outs and I felt like I could, but [he] made the right move and we got the win. That's the most important thing," Skaggs added. "Every starter takes pride in going deep and I was hoping for that complete-game shutout, but it's OK. Next outing."
Juan Rivera doubled and plated the game's only run with a groundout in the sixth. D-backs No. 5 prospect Chris Owings went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .357.
River Cats starter Andrew Werner (7-10) grabbed a share of the PCL lead with his 10th loss, despite allowing one run on seven hits over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out six and did not walk a batter. A's No. 3 prospect Grant Green singled and walked and was the only player to reach base twice for Sacramento.