There have been 314 no-hitters in Major League history. In 2021 alone, more than 400 climbers summited Mt. Everest. In the last year, the four minute mile barrier has been broken more than 130 times by NCAA collegiates, and countless more by pros. But in all of baseball history, there have only been 103 occurrences of an immaculate inning thrown by a Major League pitcher.
Germán Márquez is one of those pitchers.
On August 18th, 2018, the Rockies found themselves 10 games above .500 and entering a rubber match on the road against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Two and a half games back of the Dodgers for the NL West lead, Márquez took the ball in what was his second full season in the majors. Enjoying a breakout season alongside Kyle Freeland’s eventual fourth place Cy Young campaign, this Rockies team was having success by emphasizing the defensive aspects of the ball.
Despite the pitching success Márquez was starting to find in 2018, he had a subpar start to the game in question. After giving up two runs in the first, and another in the third, Márquez and the Rockies started the fourth inning with a three-run deficit. But baseball, as we know, is a funny game. Sometimes it only takes one swing of the bat or one good pitch to turn a player around. And during that fourth inning, Germán Márquez was at his absolute best.
Leading off the fourth was the centerpiece of the trade that brought Márquez to Colorado: Corey Dickerson. Coming off an All-Star season with the Rays, Dickerson had been shipped to Pittsburgh and was enjoying another solid season with the Pirates. From the first pitch, Márquez went right after him. A sinker, left up in the zone, but fouled off by Dickerson. 0-1.
Second pitch, a fastball also catching a lot of the plate. Same result, fouled off by Dickerson. 0-2.
With the 0-2 pitch, Márquez went with his bread and butter, the pitch that had been working for him all night, and the pitch that was literally unhittable. Knuckle curve, spiked in the dirt. Dickerson was completely fooled. One out, three pitches.
Next up, Starling Marte. Márquez again starts him with a sinker, but this time down in the zone and inside - a well placed pitch. Marte knows he can’t do anything productive with it, so he lets it go by as a called strike. 0-1.
At this point in the inning, the viewers can sense something special may be happening. Tony Wolters sets up outside and flashes a target to Márquez. Márquez pulls the string and drops a perfect knuckle curve right into the catcher’s mitt, and Marte’s timing is shot. 0-2.
And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Márquez goes right back to the knuckle curve to finish off Marte, keeping it closer to the zone this time - starting on the inside and nearly running all the way to the outside. Six pitches, two strikeouts.
Gregory Polanco is next up for the Pirates. He had Márquez’s number earlier in the game, lacing a run-scoring double in the first. Márquez starts him off with a fastball inside, on what looks to be a borderline call. When Márquez is dealing like this, any expansion of the ump’s strike zone just makes it more impossible for the hitter.
The fastball inside is followed by a changeup over the heart of the plate. Definitely in a hittable location, but the adjustment in velocity is too much for Polanco to keep up with, and he’s only able to foul it off. 0-2.
To finish it off, Márquez goes with the pitch that is still downright unhittable - the knuckle curve. Polanco swings through it and goes down. Nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts.
Here’s the full progression in sequence, with the KOA radio commentary, and here is the Statcast data on each of the nine pitches.
Since baseball is a strange and, at times, unfair game, the Rockies were unable to complete their comeback and would ultimately fall to the Pirates. Their season, however, would enjoy some success. They tied the Dodgers for the NL West title, lost the tiebreak game, but then traveled to Chicago to defeat the Cubs in the NL Wild Card game. A good amount of this success was thanks to Márquez and the rest of the pitching corps.
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McCullough: MLB owners clearly don’t want fans to watch their sport right now | The Athletic ($)
In a recent installment of more depressing news, Rob Manfred has threatened to cancel Opening Day if the Player’s Association and League are unable to come to an agreement today. Most reports suggest that the two sides are still far away, so Manfred’s announcement is being interpreted as an admission on the owner’s part that they do not care if Opening Day goes forward per tradition. The days to come will likely be telling if they care about the season at large.
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