Any resemblance between the Jason Marquis who St. Louis cast aside during last year's postseason and the one who threw seven shutout innings against the Cardinals on Saturday is purely coincidental.
He looks the same, has the same New York accent and still swings a mean bat.
But after Marquis pitched the Cubs to a 6-0 victory over the Cardinals before a crowd of 41,637 at Wrigley Field, he acknowledged approaching his former team in a much different manner than he might have only a few years ago.
"I was a little younger, and I really used a lot of aggression facing Atlanta," said Marquis, who was traded from the Braves to St. Louis after the 2003 season. "It really worked against me. Today, it was more my choice to come to the Cubs. This is the place I wanted to be, and the team is going in the right direction. I try not to get too amped up about it."
Marquis' pitching, Michael Barrett's three-run home run in the first inning and a fine defensive effort from rookie center fielder Felix Pie helped the Cubs to their third victory in nine games at Wrigley.
Marquis (2-1) allowed seven hits with five strikeouts and no walks, finishing with a season-high 117 pitches. He also lowered his earned-run average to 1.88, more than four runs less than his league-high 6.02 ERA last year with the Cardinals.
He came to Chicago with a bull's-eye on his back, thanks to a $21 million contract that many thought was excessive. But Marquis has silenced his critics for now by doing his job.
"I don't care what anybody says about the guy," Barrett said. "I'll make my own opinion, and so far he has been a lot of fun to work with. He's a competitor and a tremendous athlete, and I'm proud he's part of this organization."
Will Ohman finished off the Cubs' third shutout with two scoreless innings in relief. The Cubs had only seven shutouts in all of '06. They also lowered their team ERA to 3.39 and began the day ranked second in the NL in opponents' batting average (.216).
Cubs manager Lou Piniella inserted a predominantly right-handed lineup against right-hander Anthony Reyes, after noticing that the wind was blowing out to left field.
"We'll see what happens," he said.
What happened was the wind shifted a bit, blowing from right to left, but it didn't matter. Barrett's quick-strike home run off Reyes gave Marquis some early breathing room. Ronny Cedeno added an RBI double in the second and he homered in the seventh to make it 5-0.
Marquis got in so many jams it seemed as if he were auditioning for a Jackie Chan movie. Somehow, he always escaped. Pie's running catch of Adam Kennedy's shot saved a run in the second, and Marquis struck out Chris Duncan with the bases loaded to end the fourth.
"Nothing has ever really come easy for me," Marquis said. "I'm out there every pitch, mentally and physically focused on what I have to do. I never want to be out there with this lax feeling, like 'This is easy,' because it's never easy."
Piniella came out to have one of his "nice conversations" with Marquis with two on, two out and Scott Rolen coming to the plate in the seventh.
"He told me he was a little tired, and I said, 'Well, just get me one more hitter,' " Piniella said. "And he did."
Marquis induced Rolen into a forceout at second, and left to a nice ovation from the portion of the crowd not dressed in red.
Now Wade Miller faces Adam Wainwright on Sunday, as the Cubs attempt to win two straight for the first time since April 6 and 7 in Milwaukee.
Cubs 6, Cardinals 0
Cubs' Marquis grand against old team
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