Márquez's early exit leaves Rox in bind vs. LA

Cut on thumb ends right-hander's night after allowing 5 runs in 5 1/3 innings

June 30th, 2022

DENVER -- During what they hope is a season-saving stretch of games against National League West opponents, the Rockies knew all along that they could every now and then encounter a speed bump.

Or, in the case of Wednesday night’s 8-4 loss to the Dodgers at Coors Field, a thumb cut.

Three days before taking the mound with a chance to pitch the Rockies to a sweep of the Dodgers, right-hander Germán Márquez sustained a cut on his thumb during a bullpen session. He never thought Wednesday’s start was in danger, and even believed the thumb to be healed enough that he could follow up on his 7 2/3 scoreless innings Friday night at Minnesota with another solid effort.

But, the skin became irritated when Márquez threw his fastball -- including one that Freddie Freeman socked for a first-inning home run. With the cut right where his thumb comes in contact with the seams, he could not control his fastball. He was finally pulled after assistant athletic trainer Heath Townsend visited the mound in the fourth inning, after the right-hander gave up five runs on five hits with three walks.

“As soon as I started throwing hard, it started bleeding,” Márquez said. “I felt it in the second inning -- painful.

“I wanted this game. I wanted this win. It’s tough.”

Márquez, who had three quality starts in his four previous outings, believes he will not have to miss a turn. The Rockies need him.

They won two of three over the perennial NL West kingpins to begin a 17-game stretch within the division. Had they won Wednesday, they would have moved into a fourth-place tie with the D-backs and escaped being alone in fifth for the first time since May 10. Starting Friday, when the D-backs arrive for a three-game series, Colorado has games on 17 successive days going into the All-Star break.

The Rockies are 9-4 with three series wins and one split in their last four series within the division. So beyond Márquez’s finger, the sting of Wednesday was mitigated. Even behind 5-0 early, there were offensive accomplishments -- Brendan Rodgers’ three-hit performance with a home run, Charlie Blackmon’s 5-for-9 series performance and the return of Kris Bryant from a lengthy absence because of a back injury. Bryant had two singles Wednesday.

“That was a good series for us,” said All-Star candidate C.J. Cron. “Obviously, we’d like to win every game, but if you’d told us before it started we’d win the series, we’d have taken it. We’ve just got to build momentum.”

Should Márquez, who thought the humid weather in Minneapolis might have led to the cut, not be affected going forward, the Rockies can resume a run of respectable pitching. Even with some early slumps, the Rockies’ 32 quality starts lead the NL and their team ERA was 3.70 over 21 games going into Monday -- winnable if the offense hits.

And the offense is hitting, of late. Rodgers has a .381 average over his last 10 games. Randal Grichuk and Elias Díaz homered off Clayton Kershaw in Tuesday’s 7-4 victory, and are finding their Coors Field power swings.

The solid play lately in the division is fueling the Rockies’ aspiration to climb back to .500 and activate general manager Bill Schmidt’s vow to pursue veteran help for a second-half push. But all the Rockies need to remember is a rough early-season series at Chase Field, when the D-backs used strong pitching to take two of three.

“If we go up with the mindset of just do your part, don’t try to do too much, keep the line moving, we’ve shown that we can play with anybody,” Grichuk said. “It doesn’t matter what our record is right now, we’ll be all right.”