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German Marquez came three outs away from only the second no-hitter at the pitcher’s nightmare that is Coors Field.
Nearly 25 years ago, a pitcher stormed into the Majors from Japan and showed the baseball world what seemed impossible was in fact possible: that you can dominate even in the most hostile pitching environment imaginable.
Colorado Rockies right-hander German Marquez nearly duplicated that feat on Tuesday night. Facing the Pittsburgh Pirates in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field, Marquez came three outs away from joining Hideo Nomo in that exclusive no-hitter club.
There have been more than 300 recognized no-hitters in Major League history, but none was more improbable than Nomo’s performance on Sept. 17, 1996. The Dodgers right-hander with the funky delivery was facing a Rockies lineup that featured three 40-home run hitters and four .300 hitters. In his previous start at Coors Field three months earlier, he gave up nine runs and had an 11.17 career ERA in the thin Mile High air.
A quarter-century later, no one has managed to pull off what Nomo did. It’s an imposing task facing any pitcher. Since the park opened in 1995, opposing batters are hitting .291 against Rockies pitchers at Coors Field, 18 points higher than in any other ballpark. The park has surrendered the most doubles, triples and home runs; batters have the highest slugging percentage and OPS (.834, nearly 70 points higher than the next ballpark).
Marquez, with nearly six years of experience dealing with pitching at Coors Field, is no stranger to what it can do to any pitcher. His career ERA on the road is 3.61. That jumps to 4.85 at home. His opposing batting average against goes up more than 40 points when pitching at Coors.
Marquez flirts with a historic performance
Despite those long odds, he nearly defied them against the Pirates. On just the second pitch he threw in the game, Pirates leadoff hitter Adam Frazier lined out to first base. In the eighth inning, with the crowd recognizing what Marquez was on the verge of accomplishing, Pirates catcher Jacob Stallings hit a liner that seemed bound for left-field before shortstop Trevor Story made a leaping catch to keep the no-hit bid alive.
After Story’s catch, it seemed like destiny that Marquez would become the first Rockies pitcher in franchise history to throw a no-hitter at home. He was only the second to take a no-hitter into the ninth inning, joining Kyle Freeland in 2017. But that was ruined by Ka’ai Tom, batting .141 on the season, who singled to right on a 0-1 pitch to lead off the ninth.
“I felt it early. I felt I had a chance. But, you know, it’s one pitch,” Marquez told AT&T Sportsnet on the field following the game. “That’s all it was, just one pitch. It is what it is.”
Marquez finished with a complete game, one-hitter, the first-ever known by a Rockies pitcher at Coors Field, in Colorado’s 8-0 victory. The only no-hitter in Rockies history was thrown by Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010, but that was in the much more pitcher-friendly Turner Field in Atlanta.
Marquez needed just 92 pitches, allowing just three baserunners while striking out five. A shutout on less than 100 pitches is known as a “Maddux,” after the Atlanta Braves Hall-of-Famer who made such outings routine. Marquez is the first pitcher to throw a Maddux since 2019, only the fourth in Rockies history to do it, and the first to pull it off at Coors Field since Aaron Cook in 2008.
Marquez is establishing himself as a bonafide ace. He took a perfect game into the sixth inning in his last start and surrendered only one hit in six innings in his second-to-last appearance. He’s only the second pitcher since World War II to throw 23 innings over a span of three starts and give up no more than four hits, joining Steve Barber of the Orioles in 1967.
The Rockies, 14 games under .500, are going nowhere this season. Marquez will make a valuable acquisition at the trade deadline for a contender if they can match what the Rockies will demand for their star pitcher. Marquez is under team control for another two years, plus a $16 million club option for 2024. The Rockies don’t have to move him and won’t give him away for nothing. The same isn’t true for the man who saved the no-hit bid. Story is on the last year of his contract, his days in Colorado all but numbered.
If this is Marquez’s last shining moment in a Rockies uniform, at least he showed that, like Nomo 25 years ago, the impossible can indeed happen on any given day.