Márquez returning to All-Star form

Righty now 3-0 in his past 4 starts after 7 2/3 scoreless IP vs. Twins

June 25th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS – Rockies right-hander Germán Márquez let a muggy, 91-degree Friday night at Target Field wash over him, or stick to him, if you will.

“I feel like this is my time of year,” Márquez said.

As he spoke, Márquez had not the far-away look of a man waxing nostalgic about the summers of his youth in Venezuela, but a man recapturing the form of last year, when he earned his first All-Star Game invitation.

Márquez held the Twins scoreless on three hits in 7 2/3 innings, on 101 pitches that in some ways were efficient and in other ways not as the Rockies took a 1-0 victory at Target Field.

The performance came a year and one day after the point last year when Márquez turned hot. Last June 23, he held the Mariners to one run on two hits. The following start, he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning at home against the Pirates, and not long after that he represented the Rockies in the Midsummer Classic at Coors Field.

Márquez was inconsistent, and at times awful, through the season’s first two months. After giving up seven hits and seven runs (six earned) against the Marlins at home on June 1, his ERA sat at 6.71.

But over his past four starts, Márquez is 3-0 with a 3.71 ERA and the Rockies are 4-0. The completeness has yet to arrive. Against Minnesota, Márquez walked five, including the leadoff man in four innings. But maybe the early part of the season, when he tried to advance as a thinker but cost himself execution, was worthwhile.

Márquez’s two strikeouts were tied for his second-fewest this season. He fanned just one in 3 2/3 innings of a home struggle against the Phillies on April 26. But he worked the Twins into a season-high-matching 12 groundouts, including double plays to end the fourth and seventh.

“I thought the fastball played really well today,” manager Bud Black said. “The Twins did a really good job of fighting off the slider and the curveball, which arguably are two of his best pitches -- and two of the best pitches in baseball when it comes to the metrics.

“But they kept fouling it off, or they'd check-swing. They didn't offer at it. So give them credit. But Germán made a number of really important pitches with the fastball, which had great movement, had velocity, and I thought he got stronger as the game went on.”

Twins manager Roco Baldelli said, “He did up his game, and you would expect that out of a guy with a pedigree and history of what he has.”

Daniel Bard entered with two outs in the eighth and runners at the corners -- third baseman Ryan McMahon’s do-or-die throw in an attempt to beat Carlos Correa with a runner on bounced past first baseman C.J. Cron -- and he retired all four batters with the ball not leaving the infield for his 15th save of the year.

Almost as much as Bard enjoyed his four-out save, he delighted in the growing Márquez surge.

“He’s been building up,” Bard said. “The last four or five [starts] have been really solid. The stuff is returning. You’re seeing him at 99 [mph] with the fastball, great bite to the breaking ball. The biggest thing I see is he’s just aggressive in the zone, not picking the corners -- trusting his stuff in the zone. The delivery seems easy and repeatable. That’s what I’m used to seeing for most of the time I’ve been here.”

Always honest, Márquez at times opened up during his struggles. He wasn’t confused, but he couldn’t help feeling that an offseason spent in Denver instead of around his family and his wife’s family in Venezuela should have produced sharper results early.

Now, he is just as honest when he discusses flushing the poor start.

The goal doesn’t stop with the All-Star invitation, which may be tough to get considering Márquez’s season ERA sits at 5.58. But after a weak second half in 2021 and the early slump this year, he has another goal.

“For sure this was going to happen,” Márquez said. “That whole winter of work was going to pay off. I feel calm. I never lost my confidence. Still, I have to keep working and keep throwing strikes.

“I’m going to keep working for the All-Star Game -- it means a lot. But I want to finish strong.”