Dogs' Skipworth has a day to remember
Marlins prospect homers twice, drives in career-best six runs
Kyle Skipworth is using his time in the Arizona Fall League to learn as much about the game as he can. In the Phoenix Desert Dogs' 12-6 victory over the Mesa Solar Sox on Saturday, the rest of the league learned a little about him.
Skipworth, a first-round pick by the Marlins in 2008, plated a career-high six runs and slugged his first two homers of the AFL in what he described as one of his greatest single-game performances.
"I don't think in my professional career I've ever had a six-RBI game," he said, "so this was probably my best day as a professional so far.
"Obviously I was excited to hit two home runs in a game. It's rare to hit two home runs in a game, especially for me. I think I've done it only two or three times in my life."
Skipworth, who drove in five runs for Greensboro on Aug. 30 against Savannah, says he is relishing the chance to spend time with his veteran teammates and he insists that he is learning new things every day regardless of whether the Desert Dogs (6-11) win or lose.
"People say, 'If I hit .300 that would be awesome,' but for me it is more about learning as much information as I can," Skipworth said. "I have Don Mattingly as a manager so I'm constantly asking him questions about hitting and there are so many veteran hitters on the team like Michael Taylor of the A's.
"I am also learning a lot of things from the veteran pitchers. I am using this opportunity to learn as much as I can...to be a sponge and help myself as much as possible."
More importantly from a team perspective, Saturday's victory got Phoenix back in the win column after defeats in each of its last four contests.
"It was a good game for me and a good day for the team. On days when he hit, we don't pitch and on days when we pitch, we don't hit so it's nice to end the week with a win. It was good to get out to a comfortable lead so that our pitchers could relax. We have gotten beat up this entire week so it was good to get to a place where they weren't stressed and could pitch without any worries."
Skipworth slugged his first homer of the Fall League in the fifth inning to extend the Desert Dogs' three-run lead and hit his second three-run blast of the day in the very next inning to cap a career-best performance.
"In the fifth inning, I had two strikes and I was just battling," he said. "I happened to get a changeup up and I put a good swing on it.
"Then in the sixth [inning], it was just an 0-1 changeup that stayed up. I had faced the guy once before so I knew he had a sinker, slider and a kind of split-change and the last time I faced him his sequence went sinker, change, slider. I took a first-pitch sinker for a strike so in the back of my mind I was thinking I was going to get a changeup and he left it up and I got a good swing on it."
Skipworth takes notes every time he faces a pitcher, and said that the games become easier when you can predict what pitch to expect.
"I definitely try to keep as much information on the pitchers I face as possible because I feel like the more prepared you are, the more you give yourself an opportunity for success."
"It's just been something I have been working on. It's a mental approach where I've started to sit on certain pitches in certain counts and it's starting to pay off."
Skipworth, who hit 17 longballs and batted .249 with the Class A Grasshoppers, wasn't the only Desert Dog to have a strong day. Cory Harrilchak (Braves) also homered twice in a 3-for-3 performance that also included four RBIs, two walks and two runs scored. The left-hander is now batting .419 with three homers and seven RBIs in 12 AFL appearances.
"Corey is seeing the ball really well and he had a really good game for us," Skipworth said.
"Without the guys on base there are no RBIs so I try to cash in on them whenever I can. The guys in front of me are getting on and that means they are doing something right too. They are walking and getting hits and that can only help them."
Oakland farmhand Travis Banwart (4-0) tossed four one-run innings while striking out five to earn the win for the Desert Dogs.
Jose Pirela (Yankees) added two hits and three runs in the victory, while Ryan Flaherty (Cubs) was 3-for-4 with a run and a walk for Mesa (9-8) in the losing effort.
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.