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Athletic Marquis ready for Game 4
10/26/2004 9:30 PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- All season long, Jason Marquis has been able to follow the lead of a professional group of veteran starters in the Cardinals' rotation.

In Game 4 of the World Series, the junior member of the rotation must make his own mark, learn from the older guys' mistakes and somehow, some way find the key to master the Boston Red Sox lineup enough to help the Cardinals continue their season.

Amid the quiet of the Cardinals' clubhouse after their 4-1 loss to the Red Sox in Game 3, Marquis did his best to consider the biggest start of his life just his next start.

"I just want to pitch my normal game and try to treat it like any other game," Marquis said. "Obviously, we're down 3-0, we're in a hole and we need it."

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A big reason the Cardinals have gotten in this deep of a hole is because the starters haven't gone deep into the games. With Jeff Suppan bowing out after 4 1/3 innings Tuesday, none of the Cardinals' starters have made it out of the fifth inning, as a group allowing 15 runs and 20 hits in 11 1/3 innings of work.

"Any time we don't go five or six innings, we're a little disappointed in ourselves because we want to give [ourselves] the best chance to win," Marquis said. "It's a different situation. You can look back and we've given up three or four runs and we've gone into the sixth or seventh inning. Sometimes you can't let the starter stretch it out in this kind of situation."

What lessons can he learn from the performance of the starters who have gone ahead of him in this World Series? Mainly, try to dictate the tempo more than the hitters.

"We've just got to do a better job of getting ahead early and making sure we don't get to 2-2, 3-2 and let them keep fouling balls off, and put them away when we have to," Marquis said.

When the Cardinals send the 26-year-old right-hander to the mound Wednesday, they know they'll have a superb athlete primed to take on the Red Sox.

To watch Marquis take batting practice, and you think you're watching a left-handed slugger. He can ping baseballs off the bleachers with the best of them. Watch him run up the first-base line with the speed of an outfielder and the intensity of a linebacker, and you can't believe he's a pitcher.

The athletic intensity is something that can work for and against Marquis when he's on the mound, but Cardinals manager Tony La Russa isn't about to snuff it.

"I just want to pitch my normal game and try to treat it like any other game. Obviously, we're down 3-0, we're in a hole and we need it."
-- Jason Marquis

"There's an old coaching thing about you don't ever want to coach aggressiveness and enthusiasm out of players," La Russa said. "It's too important a quality."

Especially under the circumstances, those qualities can be turned up a notch by the atmosphere of the game's very nature, sometimes to a pitcher's detriment. It is the World Series, after all.

Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny, who in conjunction with La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan has mentored Marquis in his first season in St. Louis, says there's a give and take when it comes to such an athletic pitcher.

"I think it can be an advantage but sometimes, it takes a while to use the athletic ability as a pitcher," Matheny said. "Most athletes think more is better, but I think in pitching you have to learn that sometimes less is more. Pitching is where especially you can back off a little bit."

Backing off isn't exactly the kid from Staten Island's style.

"I definitely take pride in every asset of the game, whether it's hitting, pitching, fielding, bunting," Marquis said. "And it's something that I love to do, something I've done my whole life. ... Anything that will help me win the ballgame I work on it."

The work ethic is great, everyone will agree.

But Matheny's greatest hope heading into Game 4 is that Marquis continues his progress in using that athleticism to his advantage.

"He falls into the tendency of trying to go 100 percent all the time, no matter what he's doing -- swinging the bat, running to first base and definitely so when he's pitching," Matheny said. "But he's made good strides this year of backing off a little bit and trusting the sink on his stuff and trusting his offspeed pitches, instead of just trying to blow it by everybody.

"I think the more he learns that, and I think that's going to come in time, that's just going to improve."

   Jason Marquis  /   P
Born: 08/21/78
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R

Even before Marquis takes the mound for his first World Series start, he already has, not one, but two appearances in World Series games under his belt. Neither one is as a starting pitcher -- another testament to his athleticism.

In Game 1, he was inserted as a pinch-runner and, despite stumbling into second and barely making it into home, scored a run. Then in Game 2, he entered the game as a reliever, throwing 25 pitches in the seventh inning.

The latter obviously has a lot more to do with how he'll be ready for Game 4, and Marquis said he feels like he's the better for it.

"That day was a normal bullpen day for me, which I didn't throw early in the day, so it acted as a bullpen," Marquis said. "It got my feet wet and let me know what type of atmosphere I was dealing with. It was good. I worked on a few things at the same time, obviously trying to get batters out."

Said Matheny: "Especially being an East Coast guy, I know he wanted to get out there and kind of get the dirt under his spikes and get his feet under him before he gets out and starts."

This postseason has seen Marquis make two starts in the first two rounds, neither one particularly sharp.

In Game 4 of the NLCS, he lasted only four innings while allowing three runs on five hits in four innings. Before that, his Game 2 start in the Division Series was a little less sparkling, as he went just 3 1/3 innings while allowing three runs on four hits and four walks.

"I would think because he has had a couple of struggling starts, he really hasn't been extended lately, so he should be, for this time of year, as fresh as you can be," La Russa said.

Whatever the case, Marquis is ready for his first World Series start, even if it's not his first World Series appearance.

"Physically I feel great, mentally I feel great," Marquis said.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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