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DENVER – Sunday afternoon will not only feature the first postseason baseball game in Denver, Colorado for nearly a decade, it will also be the second straight time that 23-year-old German Marquez will pitch in the single most important game of his life.
Acquired in 2016 innocuously via a trade “headlined” by Corey Dickerson and Jake McGee, Marquez has since been arguably the best player who changed addresses that day.
Debuting at just 21 years old, he became the second youngest player in Colorado Rockies’ history to record a win. In 2017, along with fellow-22-year-old Antonio Senzatela, he shocked those who were paying attention to Colorado baseball by breaking camp as a part of the rotation and he has never given up his spot since.
He managed this at first by harnessing a fastball that was a gift from the gods.
He could manipulate the pitch like a puppet master, weaving intricate designs across each corner of the strike zone with cut and sink and bite and power.
But he spent most of his rookie campaign dissatisfied with a future where he would live with the results of his prodigious fastball alone.
He began to experiment with various grips on breaking pitches, eventually developing a slider and curveball combination that he felt comfortable with. The ugly swings started to pile up but because the pitches were new, they were inconsistent and Marquez couldn’t fully trust them.
But he kept working at it.
The moments in 2017 when everything was working for him were precursors of things to come. Against the Cubs at home, he threw eight shutout innings while striking out eight. In Washington, he went seven strong innings striking out ten Nationals for his first double-digit strikeout performance of his career. He also took a perfect game into the sixth inning.
But the most important game so far in the still-early growth of this phenom was a loss he took against Pittsburgh on August 8th this year.
Getting knocked around for three runs on 10 hits in the first three innings when a good lineup was able to hunt for his fastball, he made a mid-game transformation that Bruce Banner would have been in awe of.
In the fourth inning, he started throwing those breaking pitches he had been putting so much time into and they weren’t just good, as he had seen a few times before, they were… immaculate.
Marquez struck out the side on nine pitches; just one fastball.
It was only the second time in Rockies’ history that any pitcher had managed an immaculate inning and the first time for a starter.
A teammate told BSN Denver after the game, “how could you not trust that stuff after what we just saw?”
Since then he has gone on a monster tear, announcing himself to the world as a force to be reckoned with. He, at one point, threw four consecutive games tallying at least 10 Ks, matching Pedro Astacio as the only pitcher in Rockies history to do such a thing.
He flew by Ubaldo Jimenez’ franchise record for strikeouts in a season (230) by tying a modern record for strikeouts to begin a game against the Phillies on September 26.
Though technically still a regular season game, Marquez got his first taste of a true postseason environment when he took the hill in Game 163 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers in a game that decided the division. A cross-up with the catcher and two misplaced fastballs cost him a chance to go deep into a game the Rockies lost 5-2, but even then he was able to get nine strikeouts in 4.2 IP.
We will see what he has learned from that experience.
Now he takes the ball (at least) once more this season. The Rockies have their backs against the wall. But they also have one of the best strikeout artists in the National League on the mound.