Rookie takes per­fect game into sixth in­ning

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Groke

WASH­ING­TON» He blitzed the Na­tional League’s hefti­est slug­ger with 99 mph high heat, as if, at the age of 22, Ger­man Mar­quez has not yet fig­ured out who to fear.

The Rock­ies right-han­der, whose knees long ago stopped shak­ing in ner­vous­ness on the mound, flew through a hard­hit­ting Na­tion­als lineup Satur­day night for more than five per­fect in­nings. Mar­quez plopped down the first 16 bat­ters he faced, in­clud­ing Bryce Harper on four whipped pitches in the fourth.

And the rookie from Venezuela willed the Rock­ies out of a nasty road funk, lead­ing them to a 4-2 vic­tory at Na­tion­als Park, just their fourth win in the last 20 games away from Coors Field.

Mar­quez added an­other promis­ing out­ing to a sea­son that will set him up in a bur­geon­ing ca­reer and, per­haps, carry him in an evolv­ing ro­ta­tion to­ward the post­sea­son.

“This was very, very im­por­tant,” Mar­quez said. “We’re in the thick of things.”

Mar­quez be­came just the sev­enth pitcher in Rock­ies his­tory to get through at least five per­fect in­nings.

The Rock­ies (59-45) snapped a three-game slump that skid­ded them through St. Louis last week and they lobbed a vol­ley back at one of the best teams in the NL, a Na­tion­als squad (61-40) that had de­mol­ished Colorado for 46 runs in four con­sec­u­tive days in April.

“They hit eight home runs the other day too,” said Rock­ies first base­man Mark Reynolds. “We have to grind these games out. We need all these young pitch­ers we have to step up.”

Mar­quez strode through seven im­pos­ing in­nings, never re­treat­ing from a lineup with the best of­fen­sive slash line in the NL. His ca­reer-high 10 strike­outs, against no walks, in­cluded whiffs of Harper twice, both on high fast­balls, at 99 mph in the fourth and 98 in the sixth, both to end an in­ning.

He also sank a curve­ball to set down Adam Lind in the sixth af­ter fall­ing be­hind the count at 3-0, then ral­ly­ing through a 10-pitch at-bat. Lind was locked in. Mar­quez boldly buried the fi­nal break­ing pitch at his feet.

“We have a lot of con­fi­dence in our guys on the bump. That showed tonight. Mar­quez was awe­some,” short­stop Trevor Story said. “His stuff was elec­tric. It looked like it was fly­ing out of his hand.”

Mar­quez was per­fect through 16 bat­ters. Matt Wi­eters ended the no-hit bid with a solid sin­gle to left field. But as the Na­tion­als fol­lowed with a dou­ble from newly ac­quired pinch-hit­ter Howie Ken­drick and a two-run sin­gle to left from Wilmer Difo, Mar­quez came back for his sec­ond strike­out of Harper to end the threat.

Harper car­ried a 19-game hit­ting streak into Satur­day. Mar­quez helped snuff it out. He spun a pirou­ette and pounded his glove in cel­e­bra­tion.

In May, Mar­quez ap­proached an out­ing in Den­ver with sim­i­lar aplomb. He kept the Chicago Cubs hit­less through six in­nings that day, with a fast­ball-curve­ball combo that was still in its in­fancy. By Satur­day in D.C., Mar­quez grad­u­ated to ef­fi­ciency.

He threw just 48 pitches in the first four in­nings, and only two balls reached the out­field. His 99 pitches through seven in­nings re­sulted in just three hits and two runs al­lowed.

“I feel more con­fi­dent now, more ex­pe­ri­enced,” Mar­quez said. “We were fac­ing one of the best teams in base­ball. I have to step up.”

The Rock­ies’ of­fense met Mar­quez in kind. Story’s two-strike home run to right field in the sec­ond in­ning scored Car­los Gon­za­lez for an early 2-0 lead. Story’s 15th homer of the sea­son was his third in five games. In the fifth, Colorado hopped on Wash­ing­ton starter Tan­ner Roark for con­sec­u­tive dou­bles from Ger­ardo Parra and Reynolds that scored runs to give the Rock­ies a 4-0 lead.

Pat Neshek pitched a 1-2-3 eighth in­ning in his Rock­ies de­but, with two ground­outs and a four-pitch strike­out of pinch­hit­ter Pe­dro Sev­erino.

Then all-star closer Greg Hol­land, hav­ing re­turned from the birth of his daugh­ter Thurs­day, struck out the side in the ninth.

“It’s nice to come in and know you’re in a play­off race,” Neshek said. “You saw some emo­tion from me be­cause this is a big game.”

Mark Te­nally, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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