German Marquez is enjoying a breakout year in Double-A. The continued development of his changeup could lead him to even bigger things.
Colorado's seventh-ranked prospect took a no-hitter into the eighth inning for the second time this season on Thursday before Hartford defeated Harrisburg, 3-2, in 10 innings.
The 21-year-old right-hander ended up allowing two runs on three hits and three walks while striking out eight over eight frames.
"He was using his fastball well, spotting it down -- best he's kept it down all year," Yard Goats pitching coach Dave Burba said. "He had a very good changeup, which has been a work in progress, but he used it very well."
Marquez walked two of the first three batters he faced, but recovered by striking out Neftali Soto on three pitches and inducing a groundout from Nationals' No. 12 prospect Drew Ward.
"We told him he made good pitches after he walked the two guys," said Burba. "I just told him to make sure he finishes through the zone and not come off his pitches like he was doing early. He adjusted well and finished the game strong."
The 21-year-old right-hander retired 14 in a row and kept the bases clean until the sixth, when he walked Harrisburg counterpart Jaron Long to lead off the inning. But he kept his no-hit bid going until the eighth. With two outs, Washington's 20th-ranked prospect Rafael Bautista hit an infield single to second.
Nationals' No. 10 prospect Andrew Stevenson followed with a single to right field, and Isaac Ballou plated both runners with a triple to center. Marquez got Soto to fly out to end his night -- which Burba said could have extended into the ninth for the first time in his Minor League career.
"The way he was pitching the ball, he would've had the opportunity to finish the game," the pitching coach said. "If he got the last out, we'd have definitely sent him back out, no question."
It was Marquez's second straight eight-inning outing and his third in his last four. The first time Marquez took a no-hitter into the eighth this season was May 8 against New Hampshire. His curveball was a key component in that start, but his changeup was the big weapon this time around.
"Usually he has a better curveball than he did tonight, but he did use it for strikes and some put-away pitches," Burba said. "What was outstanding about [Thursday's] performance was how he pitched down in the zone and used his changeup when he needed to.
"Usually he has a tendency to slow his delivery down when he throws it, and the majority of the time he'll have an outing where he throws 15 [changeups and] he'll slow up on five or six. He finished through his delivery on all of them and threw it very well -- he didn't slow up any. Tonight was the best night he's ever used it."
Marquez agreed with Burba's assessment, adding that his ability to keep the ball down in the zone was crucial.
"[I had to] keep working hard to get the last out, but my command was good. [My] out pitch was pretty good too and I just kept it working," he said. "Keeping the ball down and just putting them away -- that was my key."
While the Venezuela native was outstanding through 7 2/3 innings, not having his "plus curveball" -- as Burba described it -- implied this wasn't Marquez at his best -- a daunting thought for opposing batters, who have hit .244 against him this season.
"When he's in the zone, he gets quick outs and gets a lot of ground balls because he throws the ball down in the zone well," the pitching coach said. "Tonight was one of his more exceptional nights as far as staying down. It was a great example of how he can pitch when he has all his pitches working. If he had his curveball, it would've been an even better night."
Rockies' No. 5 prospect Raimel Tapia scored Hartford's first two runs of the game, finishing 2-for-4 with a homer. Jan Vazquez lined a walk-off single to center in the 10th -- his third hit of the game -- to plate Rosell Herrera.
Long allowed two runs -- one earned -- on seven hits and one walk while striking out five over six innings.
Chris Tripodi is an editor for MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @christripodi.