Jason Marquis outdone by Roy Halladay in Washington Nationals' 1-0 loss to Philadelphia Phillies

By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 21, 2010; 12:39 AM

PHILADELPHIA -- For a team that had won three times in 11 games entering Friday, facing a pitcher the caliber of Philadelphia's Roy Halladay - on the road no less - wasn't exactly an inviting option for the Washington Nationals. It's not a scenario even a division leader would script, much less Washington, a club buried in last place in the NL East.

Yet that's exactly the circumstance in which the Nationals found themselves at the halfway point of their current six-game road trip. To complicate matters further, Washington starter Jason Marquis had been little more than batting-practice fodder for the opposition this season. On paper, there really was nothing appealing on the Nationals' end in what figured to be a mismatch.

Marquis would have none of it. He flouted convention by keeping pace with Halladay, the 2003 American League Cy Young winner with Toronto, and turned in the kind of performance the Nationals had envisioned when they signed him to a lucrative free agent contract.

Even in a 1-0 loss before 45,093, the Nationals exited Citizens Bank Park with at least a measure of optimism because, at long last, Marquis resembled the pitcher who won 15 games last season with Colorado.

The right-hander went five innings for his longest outing of the season. He gave up one run on four hits with four walks and a strikeout. While his control was far from masterful, Marquis did enough to keep his name in the conversation for preserving his starting spot when the Nationals expect to call up several pitchers in the coming weeks, including Jordan Zimmermann.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Marquis, who had allowed at least five earned runs in four of his five previous starts. "I've been working hard to get back where I need to be. I was sick and tired of embarrassing myself out there."

Marquis made his third start since being recalled to the majors after 3 1/2 months on the disabled list. He had bone chips removed from his right elbow in May, and the Nationals (52-70) were encouraged that procedure would allow Marquis to right himself after a series of dreadful outings and validate his contract worth $15 million over two years. Perhaps the wait finally is over.

The only run Marquis permitted came in the third, when with two outs, he walked Chase Utley and Jayson Werth consecutively.

That set the stage for Raul Ibanez's RBI double on a whistling shot down the first base line that Adam Dunn was unable to field after getting his glove on the ball.

Marquis got center fielder Shane Victorino to fly out to avoid additional damage.

"I think he's getting more confident," Manager Jim Riggleman said of Marquis. "He's making progress, and I'm very pleased with what I saw out there."

Marquis (0-6) got no assistance from his teammates, who went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position when he was in the game.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company