Brailyn Marquez didn't just set a career high for strikeouts Thursday, he blew past his professional best.Class A South Bend pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea knew early on that it was going to be an impressive night."Pretty much from off the bat," Vermilyea said. "First inning, I think he threw 11
Brailyn Marquez didn't just set a career high for strikeouts Thursday, he blew past his professional best.
Class A South Bend pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea knew early on that it was going to be an impressive night.
"Pretty much from off the bat," Vermilyea said. "First inning, I think he threw 11 pitches, one out of the zone, all fastballs. He was up to 101 (mph), I think, like eight times in the first inning. I was like, 'They really don't have a chance. Something special is coming.'"
The third-ranked Cubs prospect fanned 14 -- starting with six consecutive whiffs and ending with the other eight -- while allowing just one hit over six scoreless innings as South Bend beat Lake County, 4-1. His previous career high for strikeouts was eight.
"It's one of those things where you feel like he can do that almost any time he goes out," Vermilyea said. "He's been putting a lot of work in. His body's been changing a lot over the last year or so. He's been getting a lot stronger, and finally this was one of those games where he pieced everything together. All that extra work that we've been putting in with his delivery and whatnot kind of came to fruition with that game."
Marquez (4-4) had previously struck out eight batters in a start three times, most recently April 28 opposite Fort Wayne. Against the Captains, the left-hander nearly matched that mark right out of the gate. Marquez fanned the first six men he faced before mixing in some outs on balls in play, retiring the side in order in the third on Miguel Jerez's popout to short, Eric Rodriguez's flyout to center and Makesiondon Kelkboom's groundout to third. Marquez was cruising and his pitching coach let him settle into the moment.
"You definitely don't want to give him too much to think about, but there are little delivery cues that we've been working on, just reminding him how to stay within those cues -- stay aggressive, keep going after guys, don't ease up," Vermilyea said. "I didn't really have to say a whole lot tonight because it was working from the start."
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After Quentin Holmes flew out to center to start the fourth, Jose Fermin became the only Lake County player to reach base against Marquez on a one-out single to center, moving to third when Marquez made a throwing error on a pickoff attempt. The hit and miscue sparked another dominant run by the 20-year-old.
Of the last eight Marquez faced, seven went down swinging. The Dominican Republic native needed only 71 pitches to tear through his opposing lineup. Only 18 were out of the strike zone.
"That's definitely one of the things that jumped out. With 14 strikeouts, you're going to expect to see 90-plus pitches," Vermilyea said. "He was just aggressive. The few misses that he had were effective, and he set up his next pitches and he used those misses to his advantage and got right back in the zone. He just had overpowering stuff. He could throw whatever up there and he was going to have success with it."
Since allowing eight runs -- five earned -- over 1 1/3 innings on June 7 to send his ERA spiking to 4.83, Marquez has lowered it to 3.91 in his last six starts.
"This is his first full season, so he's getting used to the bus rides -- I mean obviously you have bus rides in Rookie ball, but I think that's where he kind of got tripped up earlier in the year," his pitching coach explained. "He's just been kind of getting more used to it, all the extra work we've been putting in the side in his throwing program every day. Not that he hasn't bought in before, but he's been working his butt off and focusing on what we're giving him and taking it and running with it."
The start marked the longest scoreless outing of Marquez's career and the second time in his last four appearances that the southpaw has gone six innings. It also gave him a benchmark to measure himself against down the road.
"That's the biggest thing, what we've been giving him, taking it and running with it," Vermilyea said. "Just know that the hard work that he's been putting in, he's going to have success with it. It's just sticking to the plan, working his butt off and things will pay off in the end."
South Bend only tallied six hits -- all singles -- but made them count, notching three with runners in scoring position. D.J. Artis and Fidel Mejia each had a pair of knocks, with Artis scoring three runs and Mejia driving in two.
Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.