Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Marquis masterful

Jason Marquis delivers a gem when the Cubs needed him to, Weds night.

Following Tuesday nights disastrous 15 inning loss, Lou Piniella and the Cubs needed a good outing from starter Jason Marquis to rest the Cub bullpen. Marquis delivered that and much, much more throwing a brilliant 3 hit, complete game shutout at the Bucs. The only way for Marquis to win the game was to throw a shutout. Because the Cub offense was once again anemic. This time against Marist H.S. product Tom Gorzelanny. Except for a Soriano leadoff homerun in the bottom of the first, Gorzelanny nearly matched Marquis. The homerun would be the difference in the Cubs 1-0 win, that puts them back above .500 at 16-15 (6-1/2 games behind Milwaukee).

What made Marquis' night so special was the command he had. He struckout 5, while not walking a single batter. He was actually perfect through 5-1/3 when Don Kelly got the first Bucco hit, a liner to left. He threw 110 pitches, 73 strikes and 37 balls. This would only be the second complete game shutout in Marquis' career (here's the first).

Marquis along with Rich Hill and Ted Lilly has really solidified the Cubs front four starters behind the so-called ace Carlos Zambrano. Marquis has the most wins on the staff going 5-1. His ERA also leads the starting staff now at 1.70 (he's .03 in front of Hill).

2007 has started great for the starting pitcher many of us (myself included) questioned the signing of. While the dollars still seem to be crazy (3 years $21 million) you have to hand it to Cub pitching coach Larry Rothschild. (Yep, I said it). The Cubs can also thank Future HOFer Greg Maddux, a guy who knows a little about pitching, for Marquis' early success too. You see it was Maddux who suggested to Marquis that he go work with Rothschild this past offseason, following Marquis' miserable season in St. Louis--a season that found him off the Redbirds playoff roster last season.
"Jason called me shortly after they got done with the World Series and asked me if he could come down and throw," Rothschild told WGN Radio on Friday night. "He'd talked to [Greg] Maddux during the season and [Maddux] recommended that if he had a chance to let me see him."

Maddux and Marquis were teammates in Atlanta. Marquis threw once for Rothschild, and the two talked pitching mechanics.

"One thing you could tell was that his arm is healthy," Rothschild said. "He has the arm strength. I'm not sure what happened in St. Louis last year -- I have some ideas as I think a lot of people do -- but I think it was a little bit of a confidence thing. There were a couple games when he had a rough time and I think it snowballed on him."
It is obvious now that Maddux, who knew Marquis from his years in Atlanta and Rothschild from the past three seasons with the Cubs, thought the two would work well together. The results so far look pretty good.

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