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COL@ARI: Skaggs tosses eight frames of three-hit ball

PHOENIX -- On a night when a sold out crowd packed Chase Field to honor fallen heroes, the D-backs gave their grieving state plenty to cheer about Friday.

Donning special black uniforms and patches to pay homage to the 19 firefighters who died in a Northern Arizona wildfire earlier last Sunday, the D-backs took down the Rockies, 5-0, in front of 45,505 fans as top prospect Tyler Skaggs turned in the best outing of his young career in eight shutout innings.

With the win, the D-backs extended their lead in the National League West to 3 1/2 games over both the Rockies and Dodgers. Following a tough 3-7 East coast road trip, the victory meant a little extra for the club, especially after the emotion displayed prior to first pitch when the faces of those lost were shown on the scoreboard.

"Things couldn't have went better for us tonight," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "The pregame ceremony was off the charts, it was very moving. We came back from a miserable road trip and this lifted us up. It was very touching."

As for Skaggs, he turned in the type of performance that has made him the club's No. 1 prospect and the No. 8 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. Called up from Triple-A Reno prior to the game, the left-hander had been mentioned in trade rumors recently, but the D-backs squashed the talks on Thursday saying they "have no interest" in dealing him.

After his stellar outing Friday, it's not hard to see why Arizona wants to keep the southpaw. In his eight frames, Skaggs faced just two over the minimum, allowing three hits, striking out five and rolling up a pair of double plays.

"We couldn't have asked him to do anything more," said D-backs second baseman Aaron Hill, who drove in two runs. "He came out and pounded the zone for eight innings. It was impressive what the guy did tonight for us."

The 21-year-old's fastball topped out at 93 mph, but for most of the game it hovered around 89-90. The lack of power didn't seem to hinder Skaggs as he used his 12-to-6 curveball and mid-80's changeup to keep the Rockies' lineup off-balance.

"He hasn't had the velocity he has had in the past, but it doesn't matter," Gibson said. "If you throw the ball where it's gotta be thrown, you can be more than effective that way. Maybe earlier he was trying to overthrow a little bit and he sacrificed the command."

Said Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, "I faced him a few times, and that's the best I've seen him. He always has a good curveball. That's his strikeout pitch. I've seen him pretty inconsistent with it sometimes, but he was locked in with it."

Prior to Friday, the longest outing of Skaggs' brief career was when he worked 6 2/3 innings in his MLB debut last August. The 21-year-old struggled in his last two starts with the D-backs in early June, allowing a combined 10 runs to the Cardinals and Giants.

Friday, however, Skaggs was dominant. The Rockies, who managed just four baserunners all night, never put a man in scoring position.

"It was just fastball command, throwing it for strikes and getting ahead in the count," Skaggs said. "Strike one is the best pitch in baseball. It means you're getting ahead of batters."

Early on in the evening, A.J. Pollock put the D-backs on the board when he tripled to lead off the game and scored on a wild pitch from Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa. Two innings later Pollock was at it again, this time doubling off the top of the left-field wall then later coming home on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Paul Goldschmidt.

Goldschmidt struck once more in the sixth to give Skaggs more breathing room when he doubled home Hill, upping his NL-leading RBI total to 71. Hill drove in the final two runs of the game, dropping a bloop single into center field to score a pair in the seventh.

Following Skaggs' exit, J.J. Putz finished off the shutout with a clean ninth. The stress-free night for the bullpen was big for the D-backs' relievers, who were worked hard during the club's road trip and all eight of them pitched Thursday.

"The situation was perfect, we got the rest of our bullpen some rest," Gibson said. "And then J.J. threw the ball the best he has. His fastball command was much improved tonight."

It seems fairly likely Skaggs will receive another start after Friday, but Gibson didn't want to make it official.

"We'll see," Gibson said with a smile. "Let's just leave that as TBD."

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