Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ubaldo Jimenez Dominates as Rockies Prevail Through Pitcher's Duel

If yesterday was a day for the pessimistic Rockies fans, tonight was a night for the optimists.

The Rockies won the game 3-0 in the definition of a pitcher's duel.

In two days there could not be two more opposite games. Yesterday two aces in Aaron Cook and Brandon Webb were unable to make it out of the fourth inning. Tonight, both Jimenez and hard-luck loser Dan Haren dominated the strike zone and confused hitters with their respective pitches. Haren has a dazzling split-fingered fastball, while Jimenez can throw a two-seamed fastball past even the best of hitters.

The only thing that the first two games have had in common is that rejuvenated Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki homered in both games. It was the fifth inning when the Rockies got on the board. That is when Tulowitzki roped a hanging breaking ball deep into the left-center field seats. It is clear that Tulowitzki is exhibiting more patience than this time last year and is not pressing to get hits.

Jimenez threw seven innings, striking out eight hitters while giving up only four hits and walking three. He battled out of trouble twice. First in the fourth inning when Justin Upton walked on a close three-two pitch, putting two runners on base for Dan Haren with only one out. Haren proceeded to hit a roller to second baseman Clint Barmes, who started the 4-6-3 double play.

In the 7th inning Stephen Drew roped a double off the top of the right field wall, but Jimenez once again battled out of the jam by getting a strikeout and a lineout by pinch hitter Eric Byrnes.

Clint Hurdle showed a new level of confidence in Jimenez. He left the 6th inning with a pitch count at 92. Last season, the odds of Jimenez going back out to the hill for the 7th inning were slim to none. This year, there was no stirring in the bullpen. It was clearly Jimenez's game.

The Rockies added two more runs in the top of the 8th inning. Barmes led off the inning with a double down the left field line. Ian Stewart, pinch hitting for Jimenez, floated a ball into center field. Barmes read the ball off of the bat perfectly and sped around to score the Rockies second run.

Two hitters later, Todd Helton had an at bat that Rockies fans have been used to in the past. He battled to a 3-2 count, then put a good swing on a pitch, driving it to centerfield. That hit brought around Ian Stewart, scoring the third run for the Rockies.

Jimenez threw 107 pitches in all, 61 for strikes through seven innings. After he exited, Manny Corpas came in to throw the eighth inning. He showed how nice it should be for the Rockies this season to have two capable closers on the active roster. Corpas dominated his inning, getting the Diamondbacks in order, striking out one. Corpas looked like the closer from the second half of 2007. He had an intimidating demeanor and was hitting 94 miles per hour on the radar gun.

Huston Street, acquired in the Matt Holliday trade, made things look easy in the 9th inning as he threw only 10 pitches, nine of which were strikes. He gave up one hit and struck out one.

The win is big for the Rockies, despite it being early in the season. Last year the Rockies won only one game at Chase Field and were only 3-15 overall verses the Diamondbacks. It takes quite a bit of pressure off of the club going into tomorrow with Franklin Morales, who had an up and down spring, on the mound. With a win today, the Rockies eliminate the possibility of a sweep and shake the demons of Chase Field.

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