Marquis credits sinker for reemergence
Colorado (46-40) vs. Atlanta (42-44), 6:10 p.m. MT
DENVER -- Rockies All-Star Jason Marquis could be the perfect example of a pitcher evolving into stardom.
When Marquis first came up with the Braves in 2000, he was taught to put his patented sinker away and focus more on controlling his four-seam fastball. Then, in 2004, Marquis arrived in St. Louis and put the pitch he's known since he was 11 years old back into his arsenal.
Marquis enjoyed a breakthrough season that year, going 15-7 with a 3.71 ERA. But he hasn't been back to that plateau since this year. After getting traded to the Rockies in January, Marquis has posted a 3.61 ERA and a team-best 11-5 record.The reasons for Marquis' renaissance have been his relationship with pitching coach Bob Apodaca and the adjustments made to his delivery. "I think every pitcher has to get to a certain point in their delivery to throw a pitch the right way," Marquis said. "We made a few adjustments of where I step [on the pitching rubber]. It's allowed me to lift my leg and get into a better balance point. It enables me to break my hands a little bit sooner and stay on top of the ball." In addition to his low ERA, Marquis also has a groundball to flyball ratio of 2.18:1, easily besting his next highest mark, set in '04, of 1.92:1. Marquis said that although this season compares favorably to '04, it could end up being better. "I think this is on a more consistent level," Marquis said. "I've had probably a little more sink at times -- maybe a little more velocity -- but on a consistent level, day-to-day, game-to-game, this is the best." A few longtime opponents of Marquis have noticed his transformation into an elite pitcher as well.
"When I first faced him, eight years ago or nine years ago -- whenever it was, he threw about 95 mph, straight as an arrow, and then someone taught him a sinker," Nationals left fielder Adam Dunn said after facing him on Monday. "The difference between him now and in the past is he throws every pitch for a strike."
The only disclaimer to Marquis, as his critics would say, is his second half numbers. Marquis owns a career 30-37 record with a 4.93 ERA after the All-Star break. But manager Jim Tracy believes his pitcher will continue his brilliance because of his relationship with Apodaca and the confidence he has in his delivery."I really believe that the relationship that's been created between he and Bobby, to the credit of Apodaca and [bullpen coach] Jimmy Wright, they know what buttons to push," Tracy said. "They can see things when it's starting to get out of line, and they know what buttons to push to get him right back on track. Maybe that's something he hasn't had in the past." Pitching matchup
COL: RHP Jason Marquis (11-5, 3.61 ERA)
Marquis collected his Major League best 11th win Monday night at Coors Field, throwing eight shutout innings to run his scoreless steak to 17. His sinker was in great form, helping to account for 13 ground-ball outs, and his slider was effective in key situations -- including a bases-loaded, inning-ending double play to protect a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning. Opposing hitters are now 0-for-9 against Marquis with the bases loaded. The All-Star's final start before the break should leave him well-positioned to contribute at the Midsummer Classic in St. Louis, where he won 42 games over three seasons with the Cardinals. ATL: RHP Jair Jurrjens (6-7, 2.91 ERA)
With just one win in his past seven starts, Jurrjens hasn't received the deserving compensation that reflects the 3.40 ERA he has posted during this span. During Monday night's loss to the Cubs, he surrendered four earned runs for just the third time this season and surrendered his third homer in a span of four starts. Known for his ability to keep pitches down in the zone, the 23-year-old right-hander has occasionally fought some early control issues that have proved damaging. One of his finest starts this year occurred on May 19, when he limited the Rockies to one run and three hits in seven innings. Tidbits
Marquis has historically struggled against Braves third baseman Chipper Jones. If Jones is able to play through a sore right groin, he could add to his 5-for-10 total against Marquis, including three home runs. ... The Rockies are 5-3 in their current homestand. ... Todd Helton hit his 10th homer Friday. He became the sixth Rockies player this season to reach double figures in that category. ... Chris Iannetta added two more hits Friday. It was the first time this season that he had back-to-back multi-hit games.
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Sunday: Rockies (Jason Hammel, 5-4, 4.07) vs. Braves (Kris Medlen, 2-3, 5.72), 1:10 p.m. MT
Cheng Sio is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.