Cardinals hoping to extend road winning streak to 10 games Saturday

DENVER — German Marquez will start Saturday for the Colorado Rockies, seeking to continue his recent success that largely is the result of a couple of subtle changes. He will try to slow the torrid St. Louis Cardinals.

St. Louis beat the Rockies 7-5 on Friday night to improve its record this month to 18-4, the four losses each being by one run. The Cardinals (72-57) extended their road winning streak to nine games, the longest active streak in the majors and the longest by the Cardinals since April 28-May 10, 2017.

The Rockies (70-58) are 1-4 this season against the Cardinals and 1-7 dating back to July 24, 2017.

Marquez (11-9, 4.42 ERA) will be opposed by left-hander John Gant (5-5, 3.76), who has started and relieved this season and lately has found his footing in the Cardinals’ rotation.

Marquez has pitched at least seven innings in four of his past five starts, including Sunday at Atlanta when he gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings and came away with a 4-2 win. In his past nine starts, Marquez is 6-1 with a 2.87 ERA. In his last five starts, he held opponents to a .206 average and .606 OPS with eight walks and 39 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings as the modifications he worked on with pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes have taken hold.

Holmes said they worked with Marquez on staying tall in his delivery and working with a consistent tempo. Holmes said Marquez was “hinging,” which is pitching parlance for not having his lower and top halves in synch, resulting in getting too tilted as he leans back in his delivery.

“Then he’s fighting to get back down,” Holmes said. “So we talked to him about staying tall and not really worrying about getting weight into his legs as far as power, because his power comes from a quick arm.”

In addition, Marquez has worked to deliver his pitches with the same amount of time from the first movement in his delivery until his front foot touches the ground.

“Every pitch he had was different,” Holmes said. “Consistent timing with everything (was the goal). And he’s done a great job doing it. Sometimes he slows down a little bit in the first inning and that’s something that he’s working on — to be more aggressive early.”

Marquez has allowed 28 runs in the first inning, 17 more than in any other inning.

Holmes said Marquez was slower with his changeup and his curveball, but sped up his tempo when throwing his slider.

“We took the fastball, curveball, slider, changeup and made them all the same tempo,” Holmes said. “If he’s up, his tempo is slow. If he’s throwing scuds, his tempo’s too fast. So every time now, he recognizes it.”

Marquez is 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA in two career starts against St. Louis, but he has not faced the Cardinals this season.

Gant, who has never faced the Rockies, will be pitching in his 20th game this season and making his 13th start. In his past three starts, Gant is 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA, a stretch of 15 2/3 innings in which he has not allowed a homer with three walks and 11 strikeouts.

He lost his last start Sunday against Milwaukee, giving up two runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Gant has been more effective against right-handed hitters, limiting them to a .197 average and .521 OPS with no homers in 161 plate appearances. Left-handed hitters are batting .234 with a .727 OPS and six homers in 174 plate appearances against Gant.

“John’s fit in the rotation and acclimated very well,” Cardinals interim manager Mike Schildt said. “He’s a good athlete, good preparer. He’s got weapons, so he’s able to be effective against righties and lefties.

“He’s got a nice changeup. He’s got a good breaking ball. He throws his fastball to both sides of the plate. He’s got good sink on it. And he can throw all of them at any time in any count. He’s a real pitcher. He trusts his stuff. He’s got the weapons and he knows how to use them. They’re all quality pitches. They’re not just show pitches; they’re effective pitches.”