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Skaggs overpowers Rangers in first half of twin bill

Rookie southpaw sets career high with nine punchouts, records first hit

PHOENIX --Throughout his struggles during Spring Training, Tyler Skaggs knew he was capable of so much more.

On Monday, the D-backs' left-hander showed what that was as he tossed six shutout innings to help lead the D-backs over the Rangers, 5-3, in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader at Chase Field.

Skaggs was called up earlier in the day from Triple-A Reno as each team was allowed to add a 26th man to the roster for the twin bill.

"He was lights-out," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "Just got all of his pitches over. He executed a great game plan, had all his pitches going."

Although Skaggs pitched well enough to stick around, scattering three hits while striking out a career-high nine, by rule he will have to be returned to Reno.

"Give him credit," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He moved his fastball around, had a good breaking [ball] and changeup but still, we had runners out there. He was spotting his fastball down and away, had a good breaking ball, used it at the right time, it was a slow one and we couldn't wait on it. Kid did a good job."

Skaggs is regarded as one of the organization's top pitching prospects and was favored by many to win the fifth spot in the rotation this spring. However he struggled from the get-go during camp and lost out to Patrick Corbin.

"It definitely feels good to come back and show that Spring Training was one of those things where I was working out some mechanical problems and now I'm on top of my game," Skaggs said. "Happy that they called me up and had the confidence in me to start the ballgame so hopefully I opened up a few eyes."

What impressed the D-backs the most was the improvement of his changeup.

Skaggs has always possessed a good fastball -- it was in the low-90s on Monday -- and a knee-buckling 12-6 curve. His changeup was a distant third pitch, but that was certainly not the case against the Rangers.

"Before he was just fastball and curveball and his changeup wasn't good," catcher Wil Nieves said. "Now he's got that changeup and it's a big weapon for him."

Another key for Skaggs on Monday was that his curveball was coming out of the same arm slot as his fastball. Nieves said that in the past the curve had a tendency to go up when it would first leave Skaggs' hand making it easier to distinguish from his fastball.

"I was throwing all three for strikes," Skaggs said. "And it was one of those things where I was out there I was comfortable, I was confident so I felt pretty good. I feel like the changeup is not my greatest pitch, but it's getting up there."

The D-backs gave Skaggs some early runs to work with as they were able to get to Rangers starter Martin Perez, who was added to the Rangers' roster as their 26th player before the game.

Martin Prado gave the D-backs a 1-0 lead in the first when he singled home Paul Goldschmidt. It was Prado's seventh consecutive hit, tying a team record. Prado nearly broke the record in his next at-bat, but his hard-hit liner to right was snagged by right fielder Nelson Cruz.

In the second, the D-backs capitalized on a fielding error by second baseman Jurickson Profar to score a pair of runs to increase the lead to 3-0.

Cody Ross hit his second homer of the year in the fifth to put Arizona up, 4-0.

That was plenty of runs for Skaggs, who not only had success on the mound, but also collected his first Major League hit in the fourth while using injured outfielder Adam Eaton's bat.

Eric Hinske's pinch-hit RBI double in the eighth gave Arizona a seemingly safe five-run cushion, but things got interesting in the ninth.

Tony Sipp loaded the bases with one out, giving way to Heath Bell to close it out. Bell immediately allowed an RBI single to Profar and two-run single to Adrian Beltre. However, Bell rebounded to fan Cruz and got Mitch Moreland to bounce out and finish off Bell's ninth save of the year.

"It's hard to shut those guys out and they came at us pretty good there in the last inning," Gibson said.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.
Read More: Arizona Diamondbacks, Eric Hinske, Heath Bell, Tyler Skaggs, Martin Prado, Cody Ross