Taylor Clarke won't call it arrogance, but his string of successful outings in 2017 is providing him with an edge before he takes the mound, and that's not good news for his opponents.Clarke allowed two hits with a walk and three strikeouts in six innings as Jackson defeated Mobile, 4-0,
Taylor Clarke won't call it arrogance, but his string of successful outings in 2017 is providing him with an edge before he takes the mound, and that's not good news for his opponents.
Clarke allowed two hits with a walk and three strikeouts in six innings as Jackson defeated Mobile, 4-0, on Friday night at Hank Aaron Stadium. The D-backs' fifth-ranked prospect needed just 76 pitches to complete his second scoreless start of the season.
Clarke (3-1) has allowed one run or fewer in each of his last four outings and in five of six this season to lower his ERA to from 5.40 on April 12 to 2.25.
"It's great, because it does give you that little bit of extra swagger," the 23-year-old said. "It's not cockiness, but it gives you that confidence that you need to go out and pitch. Good or bad, you have to be the same guy. Whether you pitched a perfect game or got lit up your last time, you need to carry the same mindset into every start and not get too caught up in the highs and lows. Just find a nice, even-keeled approach in the middle."
The right-hander retired the side in order in three innings and was never really tested.
He allowed singles to Francisco Arcia in the second and Wade Wass in the fourth. He plunked Forrestt Allday leading off the fourth, but erased him with a double-play grounder by Zach Houchins.
Mobile's Zach Welz walked to lead off the sixth, but he was thrown out stealing by Oscar Hernández.
Although Clarke posted his second-lowest strikeout total of the season, he was more than happy to pitch into the sixth for the second consecutive start.
"You're not gonna strike out six, seven or eight guys every start," he said. "It's nice to see outs coming other ways too. They were scrappy tonight, putting balls in play early in counts, so I wasn't concerned with the strikeouts.
"If they want to put the ball in play, then I'll let my defense do the job behind me. It's reassuring to know they have my back and can make the plays they need to make."
Clarke's outing was a complete reversal compared to the first time he met the BayBears on April 12. The Virginia native retired only five batters and was charged with four runs on three hits and two walks in his only loss this season.
In four starts since then, Clarke has surrendered three runs on 15 hits with 19 strikeouts against four walks over 21 1/3 innings for a 1.27 ERA.
"It was just more execution this time around. Not a different game plan," the College of Charleston product said. "I ran into one tough inning that start and hit my pitch limit [of 35 in an inning]. I ran a lot of long counts, walked a few guys and gave up a couple of a hits. It was just one of those things that happens."
Arizona's third-round pick in 2015 enjoyed a breakout campaign in his first full season last year. Clarke went 12-9 with a 3.31 ERA and 118 strikeouts across three levels, ending the season with Mobile, the D-backs' former Double-A affiliate.
"It was definitely nice to get my feet wet last year and help with the comfort factor," Clarke said. "I kind of knew what to expect coming into this season and I had high expectations for myself. It's been nice to get off to a good start and hopefully I can keep it rolling throughout the year.
"I have the same goal as when I started as a pro, and that's making it to the big leagues as soon as possible. It's out of my control, so I focus on what I can do and what I do best. If it happens, so be it, but for now I'll focus on one start at a time and just go from there."
Evan Marzilli had a double and a homer and Colin Walsh also went deep for Jackson, which has won three straight.
Angels No. 6 prospectGrayson Long (0-2) allowed two runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts in five innings for Mobile.
Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.