DENVER -- One day, Rockies right-hander Germán Márquez predicts, he’ll do more than flirt with a no-hitter.
Tuesday night, Márquez held the Pirates to one hit -- Ka’ai Tom’s leadoff single in the ninth -- and faced one batter above the minimum in an 8-0 victory at Coors Field.
Márquez held the Brewers to one hit in six innings before leaving with cramps in his back on June 17, and limited the Mariners to a single hit in eight innings last Wednesday.
“I felt it in Seattle,” Márquez said of his near no-no stuff. “When I threw against Milwaukee, I felt it. And today was really close -- just one pitch.
“I think I’ll have it pretty soon. Next year? In a couple years? But I think I’ll have it.”
Márquez fell just short of joining Ubaldo Jiménez, who threw the only no-hitter in Rockies history on April 17, 2010, at Atlanta, and Hideo Nomo, who threw the only no-hitter in Coors Field history for the Dodgers on Sept. 17, 1996. Márquez's start marked the longest a Rockies pitcher went without allowing a hit at home since Kyle Freeland went 8 1/3 hitless in a 10-0 victory against the White Sox on July 9, 2017; Jordan Lyles finished that game.
However, Márquez matched his own feat from April 14, 2019, when he threw a complete-game one-hitter in San Francisco against the Giants, who were held hitless through the first 7 1/3 innings. The five other one-hitters in club history have all been combined.
By holding the opposition to four hits and one run over 23 innings in his last three starts, Márquez joined Johnny Vander Meer (1938) and Rube Marquard (1911) as the only pitchers since 1893 to produce those numbers or better over a three-start span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
A serious argument could be made for Márquez’s gem being the best-pitched game in club history. Márquez hit one batter and walked another, but he ended up facing 28 in total because he responded to the fifth-inning walk to Phillip Evans -- and the Tom hit -- by forcing double-play grounders.
Just once has a Rockies pitcher faced fewer batters. Josh Fogg faced the minimum (27) in a two-hitter at Seattle on June 30, 2006, when he gave up two hits and walked one but forced three double-play grounders.
But this one occurred at Coors Field, a place pitchers have generally found rough since it opened in 1995.
“I started thinking in the sixth,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “If I’m watching a game on television, if I’m watching one of our games, the sixth inning is usually my focal point. If a pitcher gets through that, then he has nine outs to go. You know, there's usually a second wind that occurs for the pitcher if his pitch count is in pretty good shape.”
Márquez and catcher Elias Díaz, who homered against his former club for the second straight game, rolled through with just one adjustment. After Márquez walked Evans, then missed low with a four-seam fastball to Kevin Newman, Márquez signaled for Díaz to set up in the middle of the plate on the four-seamer, rather than ask him to hit a corner with such a sinking pitch.
“We have really good communication,” Márquez said. “He knows me pretty well from last year and he’s pretty smart.”
It’s more than communication between the two Venezuelans -- Márquez from San Felix, Díaz from Maracaibo. Both had their wives and families in the crowd Tuesday at Coors Field. And after catching Márquez’s last poor start -- nine runs (eight earned) at Cincinnati on June 12 -- Díaz talked to his friend and was the first to know that something good was coming.
“We talk all the time,” Díaz said in Spanish, with bullpen catcher Aaron Muñoz translating. “After his bad outings, we sit around and go, ‘That’s baseball. It happens, but we got to come back.’ He’s very talented. I think he’s one of the best in the game.”
Márquez’s current historic three-game run is not even the first time this year he has bounced back from a bad outing. After giving up eight runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Giants on May 4, Márquez posted a 1.89 ERA over his next six starts.
It looked to be Márquez’s night on the second pitch of the game, when first baseman Joshua Fuentes made a diving catch, snaring Adam Frazier’s line drive. Shortstop Trevor Story made a big defensive play with his vertical leap to snare Jacob Stallings’ leadoff line drive in the eighth.
Márquez has a 3.62 ERA on the year, despite the two howlers. His overall body of work and current run could put him in consideration for the National League staff in the All-Star Game on July 13 at Coors Field. It’s an honor Márquez covets.
“I just want to go to the All-Star Game,” he said. “I feel I can be there, but I just have to wait.”
If he has his way, Márquez won’t keep everyone waiting for something he controls -- a no-hitter that he believes is within reach.