Dominant Marquis keeps hot Rox rolling
Righty wins No. 15 as Colorado increases NL Wild Card lead
DENVER -- In going where he's been just once, right-handed pitcher Jason Marquis took the Rockies to where they've never been.
Marquis struck out a season-high seven in 7 1/3 innings for his career-high-tying 15th victory, a 3-1 triumph over the Reds on Tuesday night. The National League Wild Card-leading Rockies are 19 games above .500 for the first time in their 17-season history.
Eric Young Jr. provided much of the offense. He doubled and scored in the first inning and knocked his first Major League home run, a sixth-inning leadoff shot off Pedro Viola, who was facing his first Major League batter. With the Giants losing to the Padres, 4-3, the Rockies increased their NL Wild Card lead to three games, but they remained 3 1/2 behind the NL West-leading Dodgers, who came from behind to beat the D-backs, 5-4, on Tuesday.
In his fourth attempt at No. 15, Marquis (15-10) used the resourcefulness that led the Rockies to acquire him from the Cubs during the winter and anoint him as a staff leader, even though he pitched at the back of other teams' rotations.
The sinking fastball is usually Marquis' best pitch. On Tuesday, however, his slider was more consistent. Just as important, the Reds couldn't hit it. Marquis knew it. Catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who extended his career-best hit streak to 16 games, knew it. The Reds did nothing about it.
"I was getting real good plane on it today -- north-to-south as opposed to east-to-west," Marquis said. "With the combo of some of their swings, it allowed me to attack them with that pitch until they made the adjustment. I wasn't going to make the adjustment."
An example was in the first two at-bats by the Reds' Scott Rolen, both of which resulted in strikeouts. Marquis and Torrealba went with consecutive sliders in getting to two strikes the first time, then called four straight sliders to finish him off in the second at-bat.
"He would throw it anytime -- 2-0 -- and he threw a number of 3-2 sliders," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Tuesday was a reversal of Marquis' last game, when he gave up five runs and nine hits in five innings of an 8-3 loss to the Mets. In fact, his wins and losses have a polar-opposite quality (1.71 ERA in the wins, 8.66 in the losses).
The Rockies have also won all three of his no-decisions, all of which he pitched well, so 18 good games trump 10 bad ones.
Still, Marquis had given up 10 runs in 11 innings in his past two starts before Tuesday, both losses, so he needed to regain form.
"What we saw tonight vs. what we saw in his previous two starts was simply this -- do exactly what got you to this point in the season, that is trust your stuff," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "Make your pitches. Go after the bat."
Marquis and the bullpen kept up that policy in the eighth, which opened with singles by Drew Sutton and Drew Stubbs to put two on base for the first time in the game. Marquis forced a ground ball from Paul Janish that was too slow for the double play he needed.
Lefty reliever Randy Flores forced Joey Votto into a grounder that drove in a run. Rafael Betancourt battled through a 10-pitch at-bat with one-time Indians teammate Brandon Phillips before inducing a fly ball to left field to hold a 2-1 lead.
Ryan Spilborghs led off the eighth with a pinch-hit double off Daniel Ray Herrera, took third on Omar Quintanilla's bunt and scored on Carlos Gonzalez's sacrifice fly.
In the ninth, Franklin Morales allowed a leadoff walk to Rolen, but he then struck out Jonny Gomes and Wladimir Balentien and ended the game by forcing Craig Tatum to pop up.
Outside of the pitching, the biggest contribution came from Young, who led off the game with a double off Reds starter Matt Maloney (0-4), who left after five good innings with a blister on his left middle finger. Young made it 2-0 with his homer.
Young, son of former Rockies second baseman Eric Young, made four starts in center field after being called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs because of injuries to Dexter Fowler and Gonzalez.
After Gonzalez returned -- Fowler is expected back on Wednesday -- Young became a reserve waiting to be used in baserunning situations. However, Young started on Tuesday at second base, his main position, in a lineup that had to be reshuffled because shortstop Troy Tulowitzki suffered a lower back strain on Monday.
"Fortunately, today was my day, and we got the 'W,'" Young said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.