Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rockies Shut Out Dodgers on Marquis Performance

In the offseason, Dan O'Dowd must have been holding back laughter in the offseason when he completed a trade exchanging aging and embattled reliever Luis Vizcaino for perennial 10 game winner Jason Marquis.

Not only was Cubs general manager Jim Hendry willing to deal Marquis, he also agreed to pay some of his salary.

The move is proving to be the most lopsided trade of the offseason. After shutting out the Dodgers on their home field throwing just 86 pitches in a complete game, no walk effort, Marquis became the winningest pitcher in the National League.

If Marquis does not make the National League All-Star team it will be one of the biggest snubs in recent history.

All season long Marquis has been the go-to guy when it came to getting a win after an emotional loss. Six of his wins have come after a Rockies loss.

On Tuesday Marquis was nothing short of brilliant. In his second complete game shutout of the season, he gave up only two hits, while walking none and striking out three. He induced 17 outs via the ground ball, evidence that his sinker was working masterfully.

After losing a heartbreaker just a night earlier, and going into the game beating the Dodgers just once in 10 tries on the season, it was nearly imperative for the Rockies to prove to themselves that they could beat the Dodgers and compete for the franchise's first ever National League West crown.

Marquis' importance to the Rockies cannot be overstated. When the team was struggling, Marquis was pulling his weight. His confidence and ability to bounce back has resonated throughout the clubhouse, helping the Rockies get out of their early season funk and find a way to continue winning, despite the odds and the toughness of the road schedule.

A loss could have been crushing, leaving the Rox playing on Wednesday to avoid yet another sweep at the hands of Los Angeles. Instead, the Rockies take the field on Wednesday afternoon going for a series victory and a huge boost of confidence going into the holiday weekend and the longest home stand of the season.

Still 7-1/2 games out of the National League race, keep in mind that the Rockies have played more games on the road than any other team in the Major Leagues. In the final 84 games of the season, the Rockies play 51 at home. It is a schedule that plays well for a team that continues to play good baseball and looks capable of continuing to whittle away at the Dodgers NL West lead.

The win is also significant because it gives the Rockies 21 total wins in June, setting a franchise record for wins in a month. Who would have thought that when the Rockies rattled off 20 wins in September of '07 that landed them in the playoffs that just 20 months later they would have an even better month.

After the way the Rockies played at the beginning of the season this run has come with the feeling of simply being a hot streak. While Rockies fans were willing to watch the team climb back over .500 and into contention, the feeling was that reality would eventually set in and the team would most likely settle back in to win 74 or 75 games on the season.

That reality, however, does not look like it is going to come. This team is playing with a ton of confidence. They do not seem to mind facing tough pitching or playing on the road. Nothing seems intimidating to this squad and they never roll over for an opponent. Even in the 13th inning loss on Monday, the team showed heart and fight the whole way through.

The fact is, this team is good. The rotation has been extremely under estimated and may be the best in the National League West. The lineup is nothing to laugh at either. When a guy like Seth Smith can be a platoon starter and a power bat like Chris Iannetta is hitting in the eight hole suggests that this lineup is also one of the best in the league.

The scary thing for opponents is this. The Rockies lineup has yet to reach it's full potential. Iannetta is hitting just .229 and Ian Stewart is at a paltry .215. Even with his recent surge, Troy Tulowitzki is hitting a mere .253. If those three guys start hitting to their capabilities, it is not a huge stretch to say that the Rockies will be in the playoff race for the entire season.

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