Marquez sends Rockies to historic sweep

Colorado posts .652 winning percentage while tying NL mark with 46 straight games vs. plus-.500 clubs

August 19th, 2018

ATLANTA -- Smelling a four-game sweep on Sunday, Rockies right-hander never let go of the scent of the strike zone.

Pounding the zone for strikes on 64 of his 93 pitches over seven innings, Marquez minimized threats as the Rockies topped the Braves, 4-2, at SunTrust Park.

Marquez (11-9) switched things up on the Braves to lead the Rockies, who now return home trailing the first-place D-backs by just a half-game in the National League West standings.

The Rockies, who benefited from solo homers from in the second inning and DJ LeMahieu in the third off Braves starter (6-4), finished a record-matching stretch of schedule difficulty, with 46 straight against plus-.500 clubs.

The 30-16 record (.652 winning percentage) was far better than that of the 1926 Phillies (15-21, .417 winning percentage) and the 2012 Braves (22-24, .478), the other teams to play 46 straight against teams .500 or above, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. 

It also was the Rockies' first win of a four-game series in Atlanta.

"Talking doesn't get it done, it's the way the guys are playing," said third baseman , who singled in the Rockies' third run in the third, behind a bloop double. "Everybody's contributing -- starting pitching, bullpen, defense, offense. I think the offense can probably do a little bit better job, but we're finding a way. And our pitchers are keeping us in games."

In his previous two starts, Marquez fanned a combined 19 using the curve for all but one of his strike-three pitches, with hitters often swinging as it hit the dirt. But on Sunday, he stayed in the zone and let the Braves make the outs for him. He fanned five, limited the Braves to two runs on five hits and a walk, and got on and off the mound as quickly as he could on a hot and humid day.

"It had nothing to do with the conditions ... that's an aggressive ballclub that swings early," Marquez said in Spanish, with first-base coach Tony Diaz interpreting. "They're looking to swing early. I was loyal to my plan."

Marquez yielded RBI singles to the Braves' in the first and sixth innings, but he didn't face multiple baserunners at the same time beyond the first.

The Rockies' starting rotation has been among the best in a number of different categories during this difficult stretch on the schedule, but it does not have a complete game this season. Marquez seemed headed that way, but after hitting Charlie Culberson to open the seventh, he exhausted himself to end the threat, manager Bud Black said.

Still, Marquez is 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his last six road starts and left Black impressed.

"A little bit lengthy first inning but, man, the ball-strike ratio was great," Black said. "Good use of the slider, fastball usage, good change -- he had his weapons today. He just continues to pitch steady for us."

threw a spotless eighth and, after 's pinch-hit RBI single off Dan Winkler in the top of the ninth, secured his 35th save. The Rockies' bullpen gave up five runs in 12 innings over the four games, but four of them occurred at the end of Friday's 11-5 victory.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

LeMahieu struggled initially after returning Aug. 2 from a left oblique strain. His average for the month is .260 -- not what he is used to, considering he won the NL batting title in 2016. But the past two games provided signs that LeMahieu's bat is returning.

On Saturday, his 10th-inning leadoff shot to dead-center spearheaded a 5-3 victory, and Sunday marked just the second time LeMahieu has homered in consecutive games in his career. LeMahieu tied a career high with 11 homers (nine on the road), so he's not a fence-buster. But it sends a message that if pitchers want to bust him inside, they'd better not miss.

"I'm feeling good -- I guess it's just a byproduct," LeMahieu said. "I feel fairly locked in. I need to keep it going to help our team to win."

"When DJ hits a ball to straightaway center like he did last night, then pulls a ball to straightaway left, that's a good sign that the bat's getting through the zone," Black said. "He's going to get his base hits to right. He's going to get his base hits up the middle. But to elevate the ball with some power, that's a good sign."

SOUND SMART

Since June 28, Story is batting .350 with a 1.020 OPS, and he has reached base in 16 straight games. He also has a .378 batting average and .707 slugging percentage in his last 22 road contests.

Last season he struggled reading breaking balls and led the NL with 191 strikeouts. Sunday's homer, his 26th this year, was on an 0-1 breaking ball that Story pulled into the Rockies' bullpen in the left-field corner.

"Trevor has done a good job shortening his swing and recognizing pitches, and staying in the hitting area," Black said. "This is development. This is growth from Trevor from a year ago."

UP NEXT

Lefty (6-5, 4.39 ERA) has struggled in the first inning of two of his past three starts -- losses at Milwaukee and Houston. But on Tuesday (6:40 p.m. MT), he starts the opener of a three-game set against the Padres at Coors Field, where he held the Dodgers to one run and four hits over six innings on Aug. 9. San Diego will counter with left-hander Robbie Erlin (2-3, 3.33).