Márquez uses full mix as Rox improve to 8-2

August 5th, 2020

DENVER -- Rockies right-hander washed away the worst memory of his career on Tuesday night -- and he did it on his terms.

Using all of his pitches -- an important nugget, by the way -- Márquez fanned nine in 7 1/3 innings to lift the Rockies to a 5-2 victory over the Giants at Coors Field.

It was completely different from the last time he faced the Giants in Denver. Márquez gave up 11 runs and 11 hits in 2 2/3 innings on July 15, 2019, in the worst game of his career.

“That was last year,” said Márquez, whose 1.89 ERA through three starts is the lowest by a Rockies pitcher since Jhoulys Chacín began 2011 with a 1.64 mark. “Tonight was fun. Everything was working.”

The head-scratching start last July, a lowlight in a year when it seemed the ballpark turned on Rockies pitchers, forced Márquez to go away from his preferred pitching strategy, specifically his slider. But he’s right. It’s a new year, and with his full pitch mix working, it could be quite fun for the Rockies.

Márquez’s performance helped the Rockies improve to 8-2, tied with 2011 for the team’s best 10-game start. The victory also featured the second straight game with a homer for , who had not gone deep in the first eight games.

Also, Charlie Blackmon’s 2-for-3 performance brought his batting average to .390, and Yency Almonte -- eating 1 2/3 innings to help a heavily used bullpen -- forced two double-play grounders while earning his first career save.

Márquez’s performance is another sign that the rotation is effective again after a shaky 2019 season.

In 2018, when the Rockies led the National League in innings pitched and the team made its second straight postseason trip, the starters fashioned a 4.54 home ERA. In ‘19, the starters’ home ERA ballooned to 6.45 and the Rockies finished 71-91. They spent the offseason by taking scientific looks at all things pitching.

So far, the results are fine. Kyle Freeland, who struggled mightily at home last season, threw six scoreless innings in a win over the Padres on Friday. Add to that Márquez’s work in his first home start, and it might mean that home can be a comfortable place for Rockies pitchers. (Jon Gray, Wednesday’s starter in the third of four games against the Giants, seems unaffected by Coors Field, no matter the year.)

Although Márquez pitched his way to the front of the rotation last year, when he struck out 175 in 174 innings before being shut down with right arm inflammation in August once the Rockies determined the season was lost, he had a 6.75 ERA at Coors -- even though he was 5-2.

Out of the muck of last July's nightmare, Márquez made major changes and held the Dodgers and Marlins to two runs in 11 innings over his final two home starts.

But he didn’t like it.

Márquez identified his slider as a problem. It simply didn’t work at home, so after the July 15 debacle (two hits, a home run and just two swings and misses), he reduced its use -- from 12.3 percent to 5.6. He instead relied on a hybrid curveball, which he didn’t like because the velocity was too high.

Well, the slider was back Tuesday. It attracted a combined seven swings and misses, and was called for strikes in 16 deliveries. His fastball topped out at 97.8 mph. His curve, which he is trying to make more distinct from his slider, helped in big situations.

“It’s early, let’s see how this plays out,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “I thought tonight he threw some really quality sliders. He threw some good curveballs, too. I thought he was in control, was able to backdoor some breaking balls to left-handed hitters. He got underneath their swings, also.

“Last year over the whole year, I thought he pitched well. Look at his strikeout totals before he got shut down. Look at his innings-pitched totals before he got shut down. Compare those to the big boys, and he’s right there with them.”

Márquez faced trouble only in the fifth -- when he gave up two runs on three consecutive hits, including Steven Duggar’s double off the top of the left-field wall that was originally ruled a three-run homer.

Márquez rebounded by getting Mike Yastrzemski to strike out on a curve and using another curve to induce an Alex Dickerson fly to center. Márquez recorded four more outs to make sure much of the bullpen rested.

He threw 101 pitches, and impressively got 15 swings and misses and 21 called strikes. Black said Márquez should get even better.

“I don’t think he was as sharp as we’ve seen him,” Black said. “I don’t think the fastball was as crisp, but he made pitches with the fastball, the secondaries were solid. From start to finish, I thought he was in complete control.”