Tyler Skaggs struggled to get through his final inning Friday night but should be a better pitcher as a result.
The D-backs' No. 3 prospect allowed two runs on six hits and struck out four over a season-high eight innings as Double-A Mobile beat Jacksonville, 4-2.
Skaggs cruised through seven innings, allowing only five baserunners, before struggling through the eighth. He gave up a leadoff double to Jeff Dominguez and a single to Chris Gutierrez that put runners on the corners with none out. After German Duran's sacrifice fly lifted the Suns into a 2-2 tie, Skaggs balked Gutierrez to second before retiring Ryan Patterson on a fly ball to left field.
The 20-year-old left-hander intentionally walked Shane Bowman to put two on and two out for Kyle Jensen. After falling behind 3-1, Skaggs issued his third walk to load the bases and set up a lefty-lefty matchup with Kyle Skipworth. The California native struck out the Marlins' No. 15 prospect on his 100th pitch of the night to keep the game deadlocked.
"I was very pumped," Skaggs said of the strikeout. "I came off the mound pretty excited that I got out of the jam, a bit ecstatic."
As for limiting the damage, he added, "I think it's big. It builds confidence in your stuff, to know that you can go out there for eight innings. It's the second-longest outing of my career and it just felt good to go out there and get eight. I wish the eighth would have gone cleaner so I would have had a chance at a complete game, but that's the way it goes."
Skaggs, who went nine innings for Mobile last Aug. 23, has allowed two runs in his last three starts, all wins. Normally a pitcher who racks up strikeouts, Skaggs has fanned only 10 batters during his winning streak, a number he's fine with, given the results.
"You can see that the strikeout numbers are down," he said. "I'm mostly working on my two-seam [fastball] and getting ground balls and quick outs. It worked in the past two outings, so I'm kind of sticking with it.
"I mean, I felt like I was throwing well early in the season, but I felt like I wanted to add a new pitch. I'm cutting down on my pitches per inning and also my strikeouts, but I'm OK with that."
Overall, the 2009 first-round Draft pick is 4-3 and ranks sixth in the Southern League with a 2.65 ERA in 10 starts. Skaggs, who estimated that 90 percent of his fastballs against Jacksonville were two-seamers, said the pitch still needs some work.
"I feel like it needs a lot more improvement, but it's come a long way," he said. "I'm really trying not to overpower hitters and just drop the two-seam in and get outs."
The BayBears regained the lead in the ninth, just in time for Skaggs to keep his streak alive. Alfredo Marte and Rossmel Perez lifted sacrifice flies off reliever Bobby Bramhall after David Nick and Matt Davidson singled and Marc Krauss walked.
Matt Gorgen struck out two in a perfect ninth to earn his sixth save.