Once a rookie almost too nervous to meet one of his pitching idols, Rockies righty Germán Márquez surpassed him Thursday afternoon.
Márquez needed just 62 pitches for a complete game -- six innings in a doubleheader opener. Although the Rockies lost to the Mets, 1-0, the six-strikeout performance was one for Márquez to remember.
Márquez improved his career strikeout total to 702, which allowed him to surpass former Mariners ace Félix Hernández -- by two -- for the most by a Venezuelan-born pitcher through 120 career games in Major League history. So Márquez could smile after a hard-luck loss, and why not?
“I feel happy,” said Márquez, whose only mistake came on the first pitch of the third, when José Peraza sat on a slider -- one that didn’t have the bite of most of his other pitches. “The second pitcher is Félix Hernández, one of my favorite pitchers in the big leagues.
“It’s a good feeling to be around those kinds of numbers."
During his rookie year of 2017, the Mariners came to Coors. Márquez, not scheduled to pitch in that series, nervously wondered if he would be able to meet Hernández, who last pitched in the Majors in 2019 for the Mariners. Márquez could say he was from San Felix, Venezuela, but that’s a long way from equal footing with King Félix.
Neither would pitch in that four-game series in ‘17, but the two -- and another impressionable Rockies Venezuelan starter, Antonio Senzatela -- met and talked in the outfield during conditioning drills.
And on July 6, 2018, Márquez met Hernández under different circumstances -- on the field in Seattle, where Márquez pitched the Rockies to a 7-1 victory. The best part of Márquez’s six-inning performance? “He said I have a good arm,” Márquez said after that game.
Senzatela, who took the loss as the Rockies fell, 4-2, in the second game, felt the significance of Márquez’s accomplishment.
“We feel really proud to be Venezuelan guys, and I feel really proud to watch him pitch, every time,” Senzatela said. “I want to say thank God for giving me the opportunity to be here watching him, and to be a Venezuelan guy.”
Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacín, who began his career with the Rockies and is back as a long reliever and spot-starter, is ninth on the list -- he struck out 496 in his first 120 games.
Márquez has continued to make his own name. He has been a key member of the rotation for four seasons, started on Opening Day the past two and has overcome a slow start to 2021 to the tune of a 2.25 ERA in his past four starts. The improvement came, according to manager Bud Black, when Márquez and the coaches noticed that sometimes his delivery was too fast and sometimes too slow, then worked on making sure it is timed just right.
But Márquez, who had one of the three Rockies hits off Mets starter Marcus Stroman in six innings and closer Edwin Díaz in the seventh, admitted he’s not at the point where he would, say, call Hernández and talk numbers.
“Not at all,” Márquez said. “But I’ve heard he’s a good guy.”
Venezuelan K leaders
Most strikeouts through the first 120 regular-season games by a pitcher born in Venezuela:
1. Germán Márquez: 702
2. Félix Hernández: 700
3. Eduardo Rodriguez: 649
4. Anibal Sánchez: 612
5. Freddy Garcia: 586
6. Carlos Zambrano: 565
7. Carlos Carrasco: 533
8. Tony Armas Jr.: 501
9. Jhoulys Chacín: 496
10. Wilson Alvarez: 440