I don’t want to alarm anyone, but the following two things are true: The Colorado Rockies currently have a half-game lead in the NL West, and it’s largely because, for the first time ever, really, they have good starting pitching. One of those starters is German Marquez, and he was really damn good last night.
Colorado beat Philadelphia 14-0 behind Marquez’s seven shutout innings and 11 strikeouts. If his final stat line doesn’t impress you too much, consider that he struck out the first eight batters of the game, becoming just the third pitcher since 1900 to K eight hitters in a row. He was one strike away from breaking the record for consecutive strike outs, but Nick Pivetta, of all people, managed to make weak contact on an 0-2 count:
This sort of performance is not exactly an aberration for Marquez, who also set the franchise record for strikeouts in a season last night. He’s struck out 221 batters in 191 innings, and has been carrying an ERA of 2.55 in the second half of the season.
Whenever a starter manages to piece together a decent season while pitching in Coors Field, it’s reasonable to assume that there is some flukiness involved. But Marquez isn’t Jeff Francis dancing through raindrops with a junkballer’s arsenal, or Ubaldo Jimenez flinging 101-mph fastballs in the direction of the plate and hoping for the best. This season, and in the second half particularly, he’s actually looked like a real, polished ace. He gets ahead by dotting 97-mph fastballs all over the edges of the plate, then he puts guys away with a hard, biting curveball and a zippy slider. That’s what good pitchers do, and it’s kinda weird to see one doing it so consistently in a Rockies uniform.
Weirder still is that Marquez isn’t even the best pitcher on the staff. Kyle Freeland has a 2.84 ERA and has been pitching like a poor man’s Tom Glavine, which is still pretty good. And then there’s Jon Gray, who has better stuff than both Freeland and Marquez, but hasn’t quite figured out how to get out of his own head long enough to become a consistent ace.
If you prefer your playoff baseball to come with some elite pitching, don’t get too upset if the Rockies hold onto the division lead. This year, for once, they might not let you down.