Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ubaldo Jimenez Throws First No Hitter In Rockies History

It is a headline that five years ago most baseball people never thought they would see. A Colorado Rockies pitcher has indeed thrown a no-hitter. That pitcher is none other than Ubaldo Jimenez. The 26 year-old Dominican shutout the Braves 4-0 in Atlanta on Saturday night.

Jimenez mixed an upper-90's fastball along with effective off speed pitches and kept Braves hitters on their toes all night long. The no-hitter is the first in the Colorado Rockies 18 year history, leaving the Padres and Mets as the lone teams without a no-hitter.

With sweaty palms fans watched Jimenez battle through the 9th inning. With a pitch count near 140 he got up 0-2 on Braves catcher Brian McCann. McCann then weakly grounded a ball to Clint Barmes at second base who threw to Todd Helton to seal the no-hitter. Jimenez raised his arms in celebration and fittingly found his way into Todd Helton's imbrace. There may never have been a better picture of what this franchise has become than the grizzly veteran Helton embracing the young pitcher who has helped mold this team into a contender.

From the outset, it looked as if Jimenez was not as sharp as his first two outings of the young season. He was not locating his fastball and his motion did not seem smooth. He consistently struggled to find the strike zone, walking six batters on the night. However, once catcher Miguel Olivo came to the mound to suggest that he pitch out of the stretch Jimenez found his zone.

Those who have seen Jimenez know that he is a once-in-a-lifetime pitcher. On his 105th pitch of the game, the righty hit 99 MPH on the radar gun, showing the amount of talent that he possesses.

As it seems to be in most no-hitters, an amazing play was made to save the effort. In the 8th inning with Troy Glaus at the plate, center fielder Dexter Fowler was shading towards the right-center field. Glaus scalded a fastball deep into the left-center gap, causing most fans watching the game to think the no-hit bid was over. Instead, the speedy Fowler, possibly the fastest player in the game, made an amazing effort to get close to the ball, then made an even more impressive diving catch.

For Rockies fans who have followed the team since the beginning this is a big day. It is another notch on the belt of Dan O'Dowd and the ownership of this club confirming that they are doing the right thing by building from within. When free agent pitchers scoffed at the idea of pitching in a Rockies uniform, the front office decided that they did not need proven veteran talent, they would look to the draft and the international baseball scene to find players who believed that they can pitch anywhere. Jimenez is the first legitimate All-Star that has worked his way through the system and proven that Rockies pitchers can be successful.

The night also had another piece of good news that is certain to be overlooked. Carlos Gonzalez, coming off a sore hamstring, proved that they layoff did not hurt him a single bit as he laced two doubles in the game deep into center field. The slugger is hitting .382 on the young season and seems locked in at the plate.

This night, however, belonged to Jimenez. At RockiesFest in January the senior member of the pitching staff Aaron Cook wisely predicted that Jimenez would throw the first no-hitter in team history. Little did anyone know that his prediction would come true on the 11th game of the season.

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