When Tyler Skaggs takes the mound, he sometimes needs to be off kilter before he can get on point. Such was the case Sunday afternoon in Reno. The first batter he faced, Sacramento leadoff man Jermaine Mitchell, learned that the hard way.
"I threw four straight balls -- actually five -- and then I picked him off," Skaggs said of Mitchell. "I don't know if that has ever happened: a pitcher getting an out before throwing a strike. But it got me in a groove."
The D-backs' third-ranked prospect proceeded to strike out 10 batters over seven strong innings in the Triple-A Reno's 3-2 walk-off win over Sacramento.
Skaggs pitched 4 2/3 hitless frames before River Cats first baseman Daric Barton singled into right field. The 21-year-old left-hander allowed one run on six total hits: Barton doubled in the seventh and scored on Wes Timmons' two-out single into left.
"I made a stupid pitch. He still hit it. Credit to [Timmons]," said Skaggs, who also walked three batters but threw 67 of his 99 pitches for strikes. He added he had near-complete command of his fastball, changeup and curveball.
"The curveball was the main [strikeout] pitch," said Skaggs, who neared his career high of 12, accrued April 20 with Double-A Mobile. "That's the best it's been all year."
Through six Pacific Coast League starts, the Woodland Hills, Calif. native is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA. Does he feel like he's pitching up to his massive potential?
"I feel I like I am right there," he said. "I am on the cusp."
So what does Skaggs have left to improve upon in the Minors? At Triple-A, left-handed batters are hitting .306 (15-for-49) against him, while righties are, more predictably, batting .238 (19-for-80).
Barton, who has spent parts of six seasons in the Majors, is the latest example. The lefty swinger smacked an 0-2 hanging curveball that broke up Skaggs' early no-hit bid in the fifth.
"I feel like, against lefties, my curveball gets a little loopy," Skaggs said. "That may be something for me to work on."
Right-handed reliever Bryan Shaw gave up Grant Green's game-tying RBI triple in the eighth.
The Aces retook the lead opposite lefty Pedro Figueroa in the ninth: Recent acquisition Tyler Bortnick smacked a leadoff single and scored two batters latter on Adam Eaton's double toward center field.
Skaggs deemed the outcome "phenomenal."
"They're a first-place team. We're a first-place team. This was an important win," he said.
Eaton, the D-backs' No. 15 prospect, went 1-for-5. He has or shares the Pacific Coast League lead in batting (.373), doubles (35), hits (141), runs (103) and stolen bases (32).
River Cats starter Bruce Billings also didn't receive a decision. Billings was charged with two runs on five hits over six innings. He struck out five.