The Rockies will return home empty-handed in the win column, as Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium completed an 0-3 trip to St. Louis. But Colorado has Germán Márquez back to form, and that may lead to some better results.
Márquez allowed two runs (one earned) and struck out six in six innings. The day was blemished by former teammate Nolan Arenado’s second-inning leadoff homer and two doubles from Yadier Molina. But after giving up eight runs in two-thirds of an inning in his last start and having uncharacteristically high walk totals (21 in his first 33 1/3 innings), Márquez flashed back to the form that made him the Rockies’ Opening Day starter the past two seasons.
“I left the bad outings back,” Márquez said. “Mentally, I just went out and pitched my game. That was a much better game, and I hope that I keep throwing some good games.”
Márquez will still have a high walk rate after issuing three more Sunday, but two of those were intentional. The only earned run he allowed came on the home run by Arenado, who was traded to the Cardinals during the offseason after spending eight seasons with the Rockies.
Márquez couldn’t make up for a Colorado offense that was shut out twice in the series, as the Rockies fell to 2-14 on the road and a National League-worst 12-22 overall. St. Louis veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright allowed only three hits in 8 1/3 innings and righty Ryan Helsley got Josh Fuentes to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded.
“We had some opportunities we couldn’t cash in,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “They had some opportunities also to stretch their lead, and they didn't do it, either. Germán did a nice job of keeping the game close. So I guess you can look at it as a well-pitched game by both teams.”
Márquez's previous two starts inflated his ERA (which is currently 5.49), but he hasn’t been bad all year, as Sunday marked his fourth quality start. But from the earliest days of Spring Training, Márquez searched for fastball command from the stretch. He worked through it until his previous two starts, a pair of tough showings against the Giants. In Tuesday's loss at Coors Field, all of his pitches went awry.
Sunday represented progress at fixing Márquez's overarching delivery issues.
“I still don't think Germán was as sharp as we've seen him,” Black said. “Yet, isn't that a great sign that he went six innings against a good club and only gave up two runs? The slider was better today -- much more consistent with the break and the location.
“The fastball command was a little spotty for me, just from my viewpoint from the dugout. But he looked under control. The tempo that he and [catcher] Elias [Díaz] had between pitches was better. He didn't seem rushed. I thought he was composed. So overall, it's a solid outing.”
The pitch that Márquez most lamented resulted in Arenado's homer. It was a full-count fastball that he wanted outside, but he pulled to the middle.
"It was kind of weird hitting one off Márquez,” Arenado said. “That's my boy, man. I love that guy. He's a great pitcher, and I think he's going to be really good for a long time. But that was a little weird, because there's few other people I'd rather hit a home run off of than Marqy."
The corrections will continue for Márquez. Black said the Rockies identified issues with his line to the plate and some rushing through his delivery. Sunday was progress.
“I haven’t been on time, but today was pretty good,” Márquez said. “I’m pretty close to being on time.”