|Rockies control own destiny, seek another rout of Phillies|
DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies have gained control of their October destiny and will start German Marquez on Wednesday, hoping the young right-hander can continue his recent dominance against the free-falling Philadelphia Phillies.
The Rockies, who blasted the Phillies 10-1 on Monday, won their fifth straight game Tuesday, pounding them 10-3. That victory coupled with St. Louis' loss enabled the Rockies to move one-half game ahead of the Cardinals in the race for the second National League wild-card spot. The Rockies also gained ground on the Los Angeles Dodgers and are a half-game behind them in the NL West.
The loss was a season-high sixth in a row for the Phillies (78-79), who have dropped 17 of 23 games this month and have dipped below .500 for the first time since April 9, when they were 4-5. The Phillies were 63-48 on Aug. 5, which was the second-best record in the NL but have since gone 15-31.
"We have not played good baseball for quite some time," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said after Tuesday's loss. "We have to find a way to perform better. We have to find a way to work harder, prepare better and come out and fight."
The 23-year-old Marquez (13-10, 3.91 ERA), who will start against Nick Pivetta (7-13, 4.58), has 210 strikeouts and is closing in on a single-season franchise record. Pedro Astacio also had 210 strikeouts in 1999 for the Rockies, and Ubaldo Jimenez set the franchise record with 214 strikeouts in 2010.
Marquez, who is 3-1, 2.23 in his past six starts at home, last started Friday and won at Arizona, giving up two runs and six hitsin seven innings with no walks and 11 strikeouts.
He has 11 or more strikeouts in four of his past five starts and has allowed three or fewer runs in 11 consecutive turns. In those 11 outings, Marquez is 5-2, 2.36 with 14 walks and 98 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings, limiting opposing hitters to a .207 average and .575 OPS in that stretch.
An improved slider, which Marquez has used more frequently this season, has been integral to his success. According to FanGraphs, Marquez's slider usage has increased from 4.1 percent last year to 16 percent this season. Meanwhile, his fastball usage has decreased from 65.5 percent to 55.3 percent and his curveball usage has dipped to 22.2 percent from 25 percent. He has thrown his changeup 6.5 percent of the time, up from 5.4 percent last year.
"I think he has confidence in throwing his slider for a strike," said catcher Tony Wolters, who has been behind the plate regularly when Marquez starts. "He throws his slider probably more for a strike than his curveball."
Wolters said the slider is a pitch Marquez will use to begin an at-bat, along with his very effective curveball and that the two breaking pitches complement each other and give him a first-pitch alternative to a fastball.
But Marquez has been able to finish off hitters this year with the slider, because it's a sharp-breaking swing-and-miss pitch and so much better than a year ago.
"It has a lot of depth, and it goes down," Wolters said. "Last year, it was kind of sweepy. He had trouble with it going down and had trouble throwing strikes with it."
Marquez is 1-1, 5.25 in two starts against the Phillies, both in Philadelphia.
Pivetta had a no-decision Friday at Atlanta, where he gave up four hits and one run in five innings in Philadelphia's 6-5 loss. He has not pitched more than five innings in five consecutive starts, going 0-3, 3.47 in that stretch covering 23 1/3 innings.
Pivetta is 0-2, 16.43 in two starts against the Rockies, including a 7-2 loss June 13 at Philadelphia, where he gave up six runs and eight hits in five innings.