DENVER — It wasn’t long after the Colorado Rockies demolished the Washington Nationals, 12-0, in the final scheduled regular season game of 2018 Sunday that manager Bud Black stepped to the podium and coolly announced his starter for Monday’s NL West tiebreaker against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“German Márquez is pitching tomorrow,” Black said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the National League, in my opinion, especially in the second half here.”
Black isn’t wrong. In 13 starts in the second half Márquez has posted a 2.55 ERA and 0.97 WHIP with 115 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 88 1⁄3 innings. Throw out a clunker of a start immediately after the All-Star Break, he has a 2.16 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 2.01 FIP in 83 1⁄3 innings with 15 walks and 109 strikeouts in his last 12 starts. Opposing hitters are batting .200/.248/.305 against him in that span.
“It’s another game,” Márquez said. “I’m going to stick to my plan, stick to my preparation and the way I’ve been preparing. Nothing changes as far as preparation and the way I’m going to go about my business.”
Just another game for Márquez would be good news for the Rockies. Monday will mark the right-hander’s third start at Dodger Stadium this year, and to call the first two dominant might be an understatement. Márquez has pitched 15 innings at Chavez Ravine this year, allowing just two runs, both earned, on four hits with two walks and 14 strikeouts.
Dodgers batters hit just .080/.132/.220 against Márquez in their home stadium this season, with both of his starts there resulting in Rockies wins. However, Márquez has not faced the Dodgers since June 30, pitching the Rockies to a 3-1 win that improved their record to 41-42, so it’s been a while.
It has not been nearly as long since the Rockies saw Dodgers starter Walker Buehler, who is no pushover. Buehler has faced the Rockies five times this season, posting a 2.61 ERA and 0.97 WHIP against them in 31 innings, with seven walks and 33 strikeouts.
“He’s a good pitcher, he’s got some good stuff. I think he’s really locating now too, along with his stuff. It’s going to be tough on both sides for sure,” Rockies shortstop Trevor Story said of Buehler.
Buehler last faced the Rockies on September 19, limiting them to two runs, neither of them earned, on three hits in six innings with one walk and a career-high 12 strikeouts in a 5-2 Dodgers win.
Márquez and Buehler did match up once earlier in the season, on May 21. In that game each of them allowed just one run on a solo home run, with Max Muncy taking Márquez deep in the fourth and Gerardo Parra leveling things against Buehler in the fifth. The Rockies went on to win that game, 2-1, when Carlos González brought home Tony Wolters with a single in the eighth against Dodgers reliever Scott Alexander.
The Rockies do have a pair of hot-hitting left-handed bats to send at the Dodgers right-hander. Charlie Blackmon hit for the ninth cycle in Rockies history on Sunday, capping a September in which he hit .349/.410/.624 with six home runs.
There is also the David Dahl factor. Dahl has homered in six of his last seven games and also had a hot September, hitting .298/.333/.679 with nine home runs and 27 runs batted in. Interestingly, Dahl only started in seven of the Rockies 19 matchups with the Dodgers this season.
“I’m just hitting a stride, getting a lot of at bats, starting to feel a lot better,” Dahl said.
Unlike many of his teammates, Dahl was unable to participate in the postseason last year, as he missed the entire season with a stress reaction in his ribs. Dahl said he is excited for his first taste of October baseball.
“I’m very excited,” Dahl said. “Last year was a tough year, watching from home and I’m just happy to be here and contributing.”
One more interesting thing for the Rockies is that Monday’s tiebreaker comes 11 years to the day after their last tiebreaker in 2007, when they beat the San Diego Padres, and their current manager, 9-8, with Matt Holliday scoring the winning run in the 13th inning.
“I’m not much of a poet,” Holliday said. “It’s pretty ironic, I think, but good thing for Buddy he’s on my team this time.”