Jason Marquis is happy to take the hill every fifth game for the best team in baseball, be it night or day. But his numbers through the first half of the season clearly indicate that he’s at his best during the daytime.
Jason Marquis [Chicago Cubs/Stephen Green photo]
That was the case once again when he recently matched up against Toronto ace Roy Halladay in an interleague series at Rogers Centre.
The Chicago Cubs right-hander shut down the Blue Jays’ offence, facing just one batter over the minimum in the first four innings, and not allowing a hit until Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay led off the fifth with a single.
By that time, he had already been staked to a 6-0 lead in a game the Cubs would win 6-2 to improve their record to a Major League-best 44-25.
“I’m a morning person,” Marquis said, in trying to explain the nearly 21/2 run per game difference between his seven afternoon starts versus his six under the lights. “I’m up bright and early, and now with two kids, I’m up even earlier. I think my body may be more aware at that time of the day.”
He would take that one-hitter into the eighth inning before getting the hook after loading the bases on three consecutive singles. Marquis was charged with one earned run on the afternoon when Carlos Marmol walked Matt Stairs to break the shutout.
With the win, Marquis improved to 5-3 on the season, lowering his ERA to 4.24. His afternoon numbers went to 3-0 with a 2.97 ERA, a stark contrast to those at night, 2-3, and a 5.45 ERA.
In matching his longest outing of the season, he boosted his June numbers to 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA. He credits his recent turnaround with a willingness to attack hitters and taking a more aggressive approach on the mound.
Prior to this year, June had been his worst month, 5.31 ERA.
A first-round supplemental draft pick of the Atlanta Braves in 1996, the 6-1, 210-pounder grew up in a Conservative Jewish home on Staten Island, in New York City. He’s now in the second year of a three-year, $21-million (US) deal that he signed with Chicago as a free agent after the 2006 season.
Marquis was 12-9 with a 4.60 ERA last year for the National League Central Division champions, wearing his favourite number 21 for the Cubs. Ironically, the last person to wear that number in Chicago was Sammy Sosa, who hit his 600th career home run off of him last June.
Marquis went 14-16 with a 6.02 ERA in 2006 for the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, but struggled after the all-star break, going 3-10 and being left off the post-season roster.
He became a full-time starter with St. Louis in 2004, posting a career-best 15-7 record, with a 3.71 ERA and a career-high 138 strikeouts in 201 and one-third innings for the National League champions.
Marquis started game four of the World Series that year, turning in the best performance of any Cardinals starter in the series, allowing three runs over six innings.
“I’ve been lucky and fortunate to be on seven or eight winning teams throughout my career,” he said. “Winning makes things a lot easier, especially within the clubhouse.”
The 29-year-old, who made his major-league debut against the Blue Jays while with the Braves eight years ago, is one of only seven National Leaguers who have won at least 12 games each of the past four seasons.
In doing so, he became only the sixth Jewish pitcher to win at least 10 games in four consecutive years. The others are Sandy Koufax, Ken Holtzman, Steve Stone, Dave Roberts, and Barney Pelty.
There was talk in the off-season about an Israeli team being fielded in next year’s World Baseball Classic. Marquis said if it came about, he would definitely be interested in playing to represent his heritage.