PITTSBURGH -- Rockies righty German Marquez found happiness as a warm-blooded pitcher on a bone-chilling night.
Braving light snow and a 27-degree gametime wind chill on Monday night, Marquez held the Pirates hitless until the fifth and to two hits in his six innings as the Rockies defeated the Pirates, 6-2, at PNC Park -- their fifth victory in the last six games.
Marquez got plenty of help from the long ball. Trevor Story hit his fourth, for three runs in the fourth. Charlie Blackmon added a two-out solo shot in the eighth for his seventh of the year -- all on the road.
In the Rockies' April 6 Coors Field opener, it was 27 degrees and Marquez disdained long sleeves beneath his jersey, saying he didn't like how they felt, and he coughed up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings of a loss to the Padres. He also said his fingers couldn't feel the ball. So before Monday's game, manager Bud Black talked to him about warmth management. That meant hot towels between innings and, yes, sleeves.
"That was an adjustment that I needed to make," he said. "I was kind of stubborn with no sleeves. In weather like this tonight, if you want to be your best, you've got to stay warm."
And make sure there are no alibis.
"No doubt, I wanted to make sure that this outing, the weather did not affect my concentration, my focus," Marquez said. "I felt good and I did not let that bother me at all."
Marquez (1-1) turned hot by using an effective fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s and a curve, that at times was under 77 mph and worked as a put-away pitch. The usually fastball-heavy Marquez (57 percent in three previous starts, according to Statcast™) used 43 of those, but also 30 curves, 15 sliders and nine changeups, and struck out six against two walks.
Black said he didn't like that both walks were with two outs, but he liked the mix, especially the curve.
"He's got a good hook," Black said, not wanting to reveal too much of the plan. "He's got good pitches, and we've talked about his best stuff, and he had a good curveball tonight."
It helped that he had a lead, as well. Chris Iannetta's RBI double and Charlie Blackmon's fielder's choice grounder gave him a 2-0 lead in the first against lefty Steven Brault (2-1), a product of Regis University in Denver. Story -- who had gone 1-for-15 with 10 strikeouts as the Rockies won 3 of 4 at Washington -- battled from an 0-2 count to 2-2, then smashed Brault's sixth-pitch slider into the left-field bleachers for three runs and a 5-0 lead.
For Marquez, a native of San Felix, Venezuela, these are necessary lessons.
Last April 25, in his first start of his rookie year, he pitched in wet, cold conditions against the Nationals and gave up eight runs on nine hits in four innings. But to be honest, no one pitched well in the 15-12 Nats win that featured a Trea Turner cycle. Add that to his '18 home opener struggles (seven runs in 4 2/3 innings of a loss to the Padres) and a reputation could spark.
However, last May 10 on a miserable day, he held the Cubs hitless until the seventh and yielded just three hits in a 3-0 victory. Monday was more like that one.
The first hit was a gift triple for Francisco Cervelli with one out in the fifth. Trying to keep the game hitless, right fielder Carlos Gonzalez dove but couldn't retrieve. Cervelli scored, and Starling Marte tripled in Gregory Polanco after one of the two Marquez walks.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Warming up with the walk: LeMahieu opened the game down 0-2 against Brault, but extracted a walk that made a huge difference when Iannetta's hard-hit ball carried in the icy winds over the head of Marte in center. Given the weather, LeMahieu's run could be termed a literal ice-breaker.
• LeMahieu attacking lefties' offerings
Making the most of contact: Story whiffed four times Sunday -- "That never sits well for anybody," he said -- and was in danger when Brault had him 0-2. Story made hard contact. The Statcast-measured 111.6 mph exit velocity was the fastest on a hit in his career.
Monday's homer made Blackmon the first Rockies player since Ian Stewart in 2010 to hit his first seven homers of a season on the road. But remember this when you hear the reply, "Coors Field," to Blackmon's home run totals.
Blackmon has barely played at Coors. Because of a back issue and tight right quadriceps, he appeared just three times in the seven-game Coors-opening homestand. Asked about the success on the road, he pointed out that he's more used to playing in that atmosphere than at home.
"This is why it's tough to hit on the road, usually, because you play so much at home," Blackmon said. "But all we're doing is playing on the road right now, so I stink at home. So there you go."
At some point, the challenge of hitting in Denver's extreme offense-friendly atmosphere, then going back and forth, will become real again.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Suspended Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, who will miss two more games for his role in a bench-clearing fight with the Padres on Wednesday, turned 27 Monday.
His replacement Monday, Pat Valaika, just made it seem as if Arenado and his five Gold Glove Awards made the trip.
With one out in the seventh and Chris Rusin pitching, Valaika shuffled right for Colin Moran's hard smash, tumbled to field it, then made a throw from his side to touch off a double play.
HE SAID IT
"As soon as it was out of my hands, it was pretty much one of those, 'Well, I just hope that he doesn't hit me' kind of things. Not great, but it's going to happen." -- Pirates lefty Brault on the slider that Story crushed for his homer.
Righty Chad Bettis (2-0, 2.25 ERA), who faces the Pirates on Tuesday at 5:05 p.m. MT, has simply been the Rockies' best pitcher in the early going, with a .200 batting average against and 6.1 strikeouts per nine. However, he must trim the walks (eight in 17 2/3 innings). The Pirates will go with righty Trevor Williams (3-0, 1.56).