DENVER — The Rockies are coming, y’all.
“I thought about a no-hitter in the fifth inning,” rookie right-hander German Marquez said, without the aid of a translator, after the Rox whiffed the Cubs 3-0 on Wednesday.
Who cares if Coors Field catered to a partisan Cubs crowd by serving up Old Style for the first and only time this season? Or that the Blake Street Tavern, a bustling watering hole in LoDo, blasted “Go, Cubs, Go!” loud enough to hear in the Chicagoland suburb known as Highlands Ranch?
Business was hoppin’... And the Rockies were in the business of delivering an early season message: Fly the L.
Yes, that’s a Rockies pitcher talking no-hitters. But hold onto your purple seat cushions for the critical anecdote of a season that’s quickly getting real: The Rockies won a series against the reigning World Series champs with starting pitchers who are 22, 23 and 22 years old. Not one was named Jon Gray, the staff ace who left the clubhouse wearing a smile and a walking boot, patting Marquez on the backside as a show of respect for the rookie’s gem of a performance.
Staring down a dangerous Cubs lineup as if it belonged to the Kannapolis Intimidators back in Class AA ball, the rookie trio of Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland and Marquez allowed only 12 hits and five earned runs over 20 innings. They were old pros.
Against a club that believed for 108 years there's always next year, the Rockies young arms are suggesting next year could be this year. With a doffed cap to the 2009 Rockies, this is the best baseball played by a Rockies club since Rocktober left only scorched earth in its wake a decade ago. Colorado’s 22-13 record is the best in franchise history through 35 games.
When you really think about it, they’re doing it in a way that makes so much sense it should have been done before. They have an ex-pitcher managing the pitching staff like a maestro, with enough depth up and down the organization to withstand injuries and illness to top-shelf players like Gray, Chad Bettis, Ian Desmond and David Dahl.
It’s not complicated. The Rockies have a lot of very good players.
It starts with pitching, always. Marquez, 22, had a no-hitter through six. Just as whispers were starting to trickle through the ballpark, National League MVP Kris Bryant ruined it by smashing a 2-0 pitch into the left-field corner for a double. Wrigley West chanted “Kris Bryant” and spilled its see-through beer, proving again there is no sports god revered like a Chicago sports god. But Marquez didn’t let it bother him. He pitched a shutout over eight innings. For good measure, Marquez added his first major league hit and RBIs.
“I don’t see the pitch,” Marquez said with an endearing grin. “Just swing.”
“Over-the-head tomahawk,” is how Rockies catcher Ryan Hanigan described the unorthodox but effective swing from Marquez.
Take your time in coming back from a broken foot, Jon Gray. The kids are all right.
“I go back to spring training when I met all these guys. What I learned really quick is that these guys have been well-prepared through our player development system,” said Rockies manager Bud Black, that ex-pitcher we were talking about. “These guys have been taught well in a number of areas. Not only pitching, but off the field, how to handle things, their work ethic in the weight room, the training room, in the clubhouse.
“The performances that they’re showing now — is it surprising? In some ways, yes. But in a lot of ways, no.”
Is it surprising the Rockies own a two-game lead in the NL West on May 11? Not really. They’ve done this kind of thing before, only to fade into the sunset over the condos that keep popping up over the left-field concourse.
Is this time for real? With a youthful pitching staff that refuses to kiss the ring of the opponent and has lifted them to eight series wins before Memorial Day, the answer from the cheap seats seems clear.
Yes. That prediction of 86 wins I tossed out on Opening Day? Looks low.