ATLANTA — In a career that has taken Jason Marquis from his home in Staten Island, N.Y. to careers with five different teams in five different states and three different time zones, it was fitting that when he tallied career victory No. 100, he got it on the same mound he achieved No. 1 nearly 11 years ago.
Marquis, who broke into the major leagues with the Atlanta Braves in 2000, got win No. 1 in a somewhat unconventional way, blowing a 2-1 Braves lead by surrendering a solo home run to the Brewers’ Marquis Grissom, but stuck around long enough to see Quilvio Veras drive in the winning run for his first career victory on June 23, 2000.
Ten years, 10 months and 17 days after that one, Marquis stood on the mound at Turner Field in Atlanta and pitched 7 1/3 innings of baseball, allowing just three earned runs off seven hits and two walks, striking out three. He wasn’t on the mound when the victory was secured, this time that duty went to closer Drew Storen, but it was Marquis’ honor nonetheless.
“Who would have ever thought when I broke in I would have gotten to this point?” Marquis asked after the game.
Who indeed. That first year for Marquis had its ups and downs, including one particularly brutal three-appearance stretch where the right-hander, who was used almost exclusively as a reliever back then, allowed 10 earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.
But four years later, Marquis would win 15 games — starting a run of six straight double-digit-win seasons for the sinkerballer and with four already this season for the Nationals, he’s on pace for another strong season.
“(One hundred victories) is huge,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “Jason seems like he’s been around a long time but he’s a young man. A hundred’s tough. It’s hard to get a hundred. It’s a credit to his durability and he’s going to get a bunch more.”
The 32-year-old had the game ball from Tuesday night’s victory — one that Riggleman admitted “was a little scary there” for a few minutes as the Nationals jumped out to a 7-1 lead but had to hang on in the ninth for the 7-6 win — sitting in his locker after the game as he reflected on what the number meant to him.
“A lot of hard work and good fortune with health has allowed me to do it,” Marquis said. “I’m going to enjoy it. I wish my family was here to enjoy it with me but it was nice to be congratulated by my teammates. That’s what you really work for is to have the respect of your teammates, having them want you on the mound and having them understand the stuff you go through to win ballgames. I appreciate my teammates for that.”
Marquis signed with the Nationals before the 2010 season on a two-year deal worth $15 million. His first year, which involved surgery for bone chips in his elbow, was a disaster. This year has been anything but.
He’s averaging 6 2/3 innings per start, already has a complete game shutout to his credit for the season and has had just one start where he’s allowed more than three earned runs.
Tuesday night was the second opportunity Marquis had to pick up the milestone victory and unlike the five-inning effort he gave in Philadelphia last week, allowing six earned runs off 10 hits, Marquis gave a performance befitting a 100-game winner in the major leagues, only truly struggling through a two-walk, one home run fourth and when he allowed two straight Braves to reach with one out in the eighth.
Then, win No. 100 was in the bullpen’s hands.
“I had an idea (I was close to 100),” Marquis said. “I’m pretty sure anybody that’s telling you they’re not sure where they’re at, they’d be lying to you. I wasn’t consumed with it. I felt like if I keep doing what I’m doing and stick to my game, eventaully it would happen but it’s nice that it happened here in Atlanta where it all started.”