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Rockies rally to cut into Dodgers' division lead

September 21, 2018

PHOENIX -- Friday night was like most of the rest of this Rockies road trip -- this time with starting pitcher German Marquez delivering in sterling fashion, with 11 strikeouts -- only with one delightful plot twist.RBI singles by David Dahl and Nolan Arenado and a two-run hit from Ian

PHOENIX -- Friday night was like most of the rest of this Rockies road trip -- this time with starting pitcher German Marquez delivering in sterling fashion, with 11 strikeouts -- only with one delightful plot twist.
RBI singles by David Dahl and Nolan Arenado and a two-run hit from Ian Desmond lifted the Rockies to a 6-2 victory over the D-backs at Chase Field.
The Rockies arrived in Phoenix having hit .158 -- and 4-for-37 with runners in scoring position -- while beginning a key road trip 1-5 and falling out of first place in the National League West and even out of the second NL Wild Card.
The Rockies still are outside the playoff picture. But instead of feeling their playoff hopes have been set ablaze, they can warm themselves with the glow of an offensive performance they felt was possible all along. They improved to 1 1/2 games behind the West-leading Dodgers -- who fell to the Padres, 5-3, on Friday -- and remain 1 1/2 games behind the Cardinals, 5-3 winners over the Giants, for the second Wild Card.

"We are a good team," Marquez said, with first-base coach Tony Diaz translating. "I believe in our offense. We know that any given moment, we're going to break out of this, and we're good enough. So it was a great feeling to come out of the game and see them put up those runs."
The Rockies set a club record with their 42nd road win, eclipsing the mark of 2009 and last season. The struggles of the road trip, after a 7-3 homestand that saw the Rockies put up plentiful hit and run totals, point to some of the difficulty the franchise has been through. According to Statcast™, the Rockies' weighted on-base average was 60 points above the expected weighted on-base average during the last homestand. Through the first six games of this trip, the wOBA was 74 points below expected.

"I'd like to say that we've really hit the ball hard, but honestly I can't," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "It's been a little difficult. But tonight was a good sign. We had some opportunities on this trip and we haven't got that key hit, but we've got to let that go. We've got to turn the page on the last seven days and go from there."
The hits, all off righty reliever Brad Ziegler, all came with two outs. Even more, they allowed the Rockies to truly celebrate Marquez (13-10), who gave up a two-run David Peralta first-inning homer but no further scoring in seven innings.

The runs off Marquez came after leadoff man Jonathan Jay doubled and Peralta homered by attacking first pitches. But Marquez, 23 but savvy and composed beyond his age, laid D-backs strategy to waste the rest of his outing.
"That'll wake you up a little bit, now: first pitch of the game, double, seventh pitch of the game, home run," Black said. "From that point, he started locating the fastball much better. The breaking ball was solid all night. He mixed in a couple changeups. He pitched outstanding."

It was Marquez's 11th straight quality start. It also was his fifth double-figure strikeout game. Even more, his season total -- 210 -- tied Pedro Astacio (1999) for second-most in club history.
Marquez outdueled D-backs ace Zack Greinke (14-11), who held the Rockies hitless until Desmond delivered an RBI single in the fifth after Carlos Gonzalez walked and advanced on a wild pitch. Greinke yielded Gerardo Parra's single and struck out Matthew Holliday to open the eighth.

"Greinke threw really well all night; he doesn't miss over the plate, but then Parra had a big pinch-hit at-bat to get it going and we started rolling from there," said Dahl, who has eight RBIs in five games against the D-backs this season.
Desmond's fifth-inning RBI single and DJ LeMahieu's double in the sixth, behind Charlie Blackmon's two-out double, were part of a 5-for-8 performance with runners in scoring position.

Before Friday, the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt was batting .435 with four homers and eight RBIs in 23 career at-bats against Marquez. But with one out and two on in the sixth, with the game tied at 2, Marquez -- noting, "the past is the past; he's gotten me in the past but I was ready" -- fanned Goldschmidt on a 1-2 slider.
But that was just the second out. Marquez kept his intensity and worked Daniel Descalso, who had doubled off him in the fourth, into a fly to left.

"Danny was just another hitter -- another hitter that is dangerous," Marquez said. "You've got to continue to execute your pitches. Don't get too happy because you got Goldy out."
Marquez has fashioned the fourth season in club history in which a pitcher has reached double figures in strikeouts five times. Astacio had seven such games in 2000 and five in 1999, and Jon Gray had six in 2016.
Additionally, Marquez became the fifth Venezuelan pitcher to strike out 200 in a season. The others are Felix Hernandez (six times), Johan Santana (five), Carlos Carrasco (three), Carlos Zambrano and Anibal Sanchez (twice apiece).

"It's hard but you can't put it in your mind that it's hard. I put in my mind, 'Take a good at-bat, and be happy.'"-- Parra, who started the eighth-inning rally, on pinch-hitting
A replay review could have scuttled the Rockies' eighth had it gone the other way. With one out and two on, LeMahieu grounded to Ziegler, who threw to Nick Ahmed covering second. Blackmon slid to the bag with his hands in the air, and D-backs manager Torey Lovullo challenged that it was a slide-rule violation. However, replay confirmed it was not a violation. Blackmon's foot went straight to second and he didn't appear to reach to interfere with Ahmed.

As part of Official Baseball Rule 6:01(j): "A runner who engages in a 'bona fide slide' shall not be called for interference under this Rule 6.01, even in cases where the runner makes contact with the fielder as a consequence of a permissible slide."
In a postgame interview, Ziegler said, " I think it's pretty clear at least by the letter of the law that it's an illegal slide. It's unfortunate that they, for whatever reason, didn't see it that way. But when you watch the replay it's obvious he made contact with him with his hands. To me, the rule doesn't leave room for interpretation in that."
Righty Antonio Senzatela (5-6, 4.81 ERA) can claim the biggest hit of the first six games of this road trip -- a two-run single in a victory at San Francisco. Senzatela also struck out five and held the Giants to one run in five innings while earning his first win in seven starts. On Saturday, he faces D-backs lefty Patrick Corbin (11-6, 3.09) at Chase Field at 6:10 p.m. MT.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.