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Marquez hit hard in Rockies' series-ending loss

Arenado homers again as Colorado finishes homestand at 4-3
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Retooling a bullpen on the run isn't easy. Ask the Rockies, who have aspirations in the National League West but don't have the consistency to match.

Lefty Chris Rusin, who thrived last year but has struggled much of this season, found his rhythm with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. But the up-and-down Jake McGee allowed two runs in the seventh that solidified an 8-5 loss to the Marlins on Sunday afternoon at Coors Field.

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DENVER -- Retooling a bullpen on the run isn't easy. Ask the Rockies, who have aspirations in the National League West but don't have the consistency to match.

Lefty Chris Rusin, who thrived last year but has struggled much of this season, found his rhythm with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. But the up-and-down Jake McGee allowed two runs in the seventh that solidified an 8-5 loss to the Marlins on Sunday afternoon at Coors Field.

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In the big picture, it's not a horrible time for the Rockies, who lost the three-game series with the Marlins, but still finished with their first winning homestand of the season at 4-3. After a 1-hour, 31-minute rain delay, Nolan Arenado hit his fifth homer in six games, a two-run shot in the first, and Gerardo Parra homered for the second straight day.

Video: MIA@COL: Story singles to center and plates 2 runs

But the Rockies' bullpen, which the club placed much hope and considerable money into, still finds dependability elusive. And it doesn't just rest on the bullpen. Starter German Marquez (5-8) gave up nine hits and six runs in just 3 1/3 innings and left too much ballgame for a 'pen that doesn't know who will perform well and who won't.

On Friday, the Rockies reached .500 for the first time since June 9, but by dropping the final two to the Marlins they finished Sunday 6 1/2 games back of the National League West-leading D-backs.

"It's not a good homestand," Arenado said. "Winning homestand or not, we lost a series here the way we did today and the way we have the last couple of days is not good. We've got to win series. Homestands don't mean nothing until you win the series.

Video: MIA@COL: Parra lifts a solo home run to right field

"It's been frustrating lately, but guys are working hard and doing the best they can."

Rusin struck out two and walked one after replacing Marquez. Rusin's work kept the Rockies' deficit at 6-5. For Rusin, who posted a 2.65 ERA in 60 games and was one of the best multi-use relievers last season, the solid work in his longest outing of the season dropped his ERA to 6.96 -- the first time since May 30 it has been below 7.00.

"Hopefully he can build on this … we need multiple good outings," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "He had a good changeup and on all his pitches in the strike zone, very good action going down."

But McGee was unable to keep the deficit at one run. Yadiel Rivera's hard grounder bounced off first baseman Ian Desmond's glove for a one-out single in the seventh.

Video: MIA@COL: Desmond, Rusin combine for putout on a bunt

Then pinch-hitter Lewis Brinson, who came into Sunday's game hitting .176 and has struggled all season with breaking balls, worked the count to 3-1 and tagged a 96 mph fastball off the left-center-field wall for a triple. Derek Dietrich, who homered off Marquez in the second, added an RBI single.

"Jake's going to live and die with the fastball and mix in some breaking balls," Black said. "But that count is dangerous for all pitchers."

And the scoreless work by Adam Ottavino (1 2/3 innings, two strikeouts) and Wade Davis (one strikeout in the ninth) amounted to practice for when they have a lead to protect.

The uneven bullpen work came on a day when the Rockies placed righty Bryan Shaw, who has a 7.57 ERA, on the 10-day disabled list with a right calf strain. Two of the Rockies' big expenditures this offseason were Shaw and McGee, both at $27 million over three years.

Arenado's homer came off Marlins starter Caleb Smith, who left after 1 1/3 innings with left shoulder tightness. Parra, who went 7-for-18 (.389) with two homers and 10 RBIs over the seven-game homestand, went deep in the fourth against righty Drew Rucinski (2-1), who replaced Smith and gave up three runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Marquez's strikeout of Smith on the 17th and final pitch of the first inning, after giving up three runs and four hits, was his only swing and miss of the inning. The inability to miss bats is one reason Marquez has coughed up a National League-high 20 first-inning runs this season. Opponents have hit .378 in first innings.

Black said Marquez is in the "school of hard knocks in the second year," and hitters have more information, and it tells them to swing early. Also, Marquez also is 2-5 with a 7.93 ERA at Coors

"These are all hopefully growth moments for him each time he takes the mound, good or bad," Black said. "The first inning, he's gotta come out making pitches. The first pitch of the game you have to potentially be aware that this guy might swing, and Dietrich [who doubled] has been hot.

"It's no secret that a lot of our pitchers have had a tough time so far at home, and it's no secret that collectively we're not pitching the way we need to pitch."

Black said the outing -- especially the first inning -- was a festival of pitches in poor strike-zone locations.

"My pitches were up in the zone," Marquez said. "I did not execute consistently. Buddy was right on with that assessment."

SOUND SMART
Rockies shortstop Trevor Story shifted into high gear in the third inning. After his two-run single tied the game at 4, Story stole second and exhibited a top sprint speed of 30.9 feet per second, according to Statcast™.

Video: MIA@COL: Story gets a good jump and swipes second

Where does that rank?

The Twins' Byron Buxton is considered the Majors' fastest man, with an average top sprint speed of 30.5 feet per second on maximum-effort runs.

Story, by the way, entered Sunday tied for eighth in average top sprint speed 29.7 feet per second.

UP NEXT
The Rockies will have to hope hitting the road will help righty Chad Bettis (5-1, 5.23 ERA) when he faces the Giants and lefty Derek Holland (5-7, 4.48) on Tuesday at AT&T Park. On the road, Bettis is 5-1 with a 2.70 ERA, but he's struggled at home or away from Coors in his last eight starts, posting an 8.57 ERA.

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

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