Two starts into his time in Double-A, Tarik Skubal has proven to have a penchant for recording strikeouts. With all four pitches in his arsenal working Friday, he took things a step further.
The Tigers' No. 17 prospect set a career high with 13 strikeouts, allowing a hit and a walk over six scoreless frames, as Erie outlasted Richmond, 6-2, in 10 innings at The Diamond.
Video: Skubal records 13th K for Erie
Working his fastball with a healthy dose of breaking balls and off-speed stuff, Skubal faced two batters over the minimum in his first start of at least six innings since his promotion to the SeaWolves. Getting the entire repertoire working was an ideal situation in his third Eastern League start.
"Every single outing I want to have every pitch, you pitch the best when you keep every hitter off-balance and make every at-bat as uncomfortable as you can," the hurler said. "You come in and you see what the hitter sees well and doesn't, and so you adjust your game plan off that."
Starting his first full professional season with Class A Advanced Lakeland, Skubal led the Florida State League with a 1.01 WHIP and ranked third with 97 strikeouts and fifth with a 2.58 ERA. The strong campaign culminated in a promotion to the EL on July 5.
Gameday box score
Things have only improved for Skubal at the higher level as he totaled 21 strikeouts and allowed one earned run over his first 10 innings with the SeaWolves.
There hasn't been a specific model for the left-hander to follow so far. It's been about making on-the-fly changes against each lineup before the hitters adjust. He noticed Richmond had a tendency to swing early in the count, so he tried to use that to his advantage.
"I just wanted to be aggressive. I noticed that they were aggressive, so I kind of wanted to match that aggression on the mound," Skubal said. "Fill up the zone and hopefully get quick outs, and if it doesn't turn into an early out, hopefully execute a pitch and get a strikeout or some sort of soft contact."
Taking the hot start and running with it, the left-hander threw 65 of 94 pitches for strikes. He limited hard contact, with only two balls leaving the infield against him. Skubal struck out at least two hitters in five of his six frames, whiffing three each in the third and fifth. He was matching zeros with Richmond's Brandon Lawson, who yielded one hit and three walks over a career-best eight scoreless innings.
The pitchers' duel enabled Skubal to maintain a quick tempo, which he didn't mind, but he wasn't putting an emphasis on what his opponent was doing on the hill.
"I wasn't worried about it too much, honestly," the Erie starter said. "I felt like I would get down in the dugout and drink some Gatorade, drink some water, cool down for a little bit and then get back out. I had a good pace; I felt like I had a good rhythm."
Perfect the first time through the order, Skubal issued his lone free pass to start the fourth to Bryce Johnson, who stole second with one down. But after Ryder Jones lined out and Zach Houchins struck out, the game remained scoreless.
Giants No. 27 prospect Ryan Howard looked to help Richmond put a dent in the run column with a two-out triple in the fifth but was stranded when Jonah Arenado struck out after a seven-pitch battle.
The 22-year-old finished his night with a perfect sixth, capping it with a punchout of No. 28 Giants prospect Jalen Miller.
"I had no idea what pitch count I was actually at, I had no idea that I was coming out of the game," Skubal said. "I was just getting back to the dugout and let the bats swing and get the defense off the field. That's just what I was thinking. Attack this guy [Miller], who was the two-hitter. Just remembering what I was doing in the prior two at-bats and just attacking. I got him swinging with a couple of fastballs up and then got him looking at a fastball away."
2019 MiLB include
Through 16 innings with Erie, Skubal has a 0.56 ERA and 34 strikeouts. He's joined one of the Minor Leagues' most talented staffs, which ranks second in the Eastern League with a 3.23 ERA. Pitching alongside top Tigers prospect Casey Mize, second-ranked Matt Manning, ninth-ranked Alex Faedo and No. 15 Logan Shore, there's plenty of teammates whose brains he can pick in between starts.
"Just talking to everybody and see how they feel and what they do and what their routine is and how they go about their business and throw," Skubal said. "It's always good to watch that stuff from anybody, just kind of learn why people have success."
The SeaWolves broke things open with six runs in the 10th as Josh Lester delivered a tie-breaking single.