The Padres, acting like the pesky little sister that won't go away, not only notched their first hit of the night against Jimenez in the 6th inning, they scored four runs to crawl back in the game. They weren't done either. In the bottom half of the 7th inning the Padres threatened to tie the game up, loading the bases after they had scored two runs. Fortunately for the Rockies, Nick Hundley, mired in an 0-for-18 slump, rolled a ground ball to second base to end the threat.
The win, as nerve-racking as it was, gave Ubaldo Jimenez his Major League leading 14th victory. Despite giving up four earned runs in six innings, Jimenez's ERA still sits below 2.00, at 1.83.
Jimenez was great for five innings. He didn't give up a single hit. The right-hander quickly squelched all news flashes by promptly blowing up in the sixth. He gave up a base hit to David Eckstein, a walk to Adrian Gonzalez and another base hit to Chase Headley before Scott Hairston launched a fastball off of the second deck facing in left field. Suddenly Jimenez had given up four runs and the Padres were right back in it.
In the 7th inning Matt Belisle, who has logged far too many innings so far in 2010, was literally two inches away from giving Jimenez his second no decision of the season. Scott Hairston struck once again, getting just a bit too much top spin on a hanging slider. The ball hit the very top of the left field wall, scoring one run instead of three.
While it is by no means anywhere close to panic time for the Rockeis with Ubaldo Jimenez, the questions are going to be asked. Have all of the large pitch counts started to effect the Rockies ace? In his last two starts it seems that he is starting to tire early. In the 5th inning on Monday night, Jimenez started to open up, meaning his front leg was flying open. That is a clear sign of fatigue. Instead of using his legs, he is throwing with his arm. At some point the Jim Tracy and the Rockies may need to figure out some ways to save Jimenez's arm.
The fact is, Jimenez has done a season's worth of work before the end of June. The Rockies record for wins in a season is 17. The thought of Jimenez not breaking that record seems laughable. In fact, barring injury, Jimenez should easily become Colorado's first 20-game winner.
The Rockies have their fair share of issues. The bullpen, once a pillar of stability for the Rockies, is in complete disarray. Franklin Morales and Manny Corpas are struggling beyond words. Huston Street is working his way back into a comfort zone, and Joe Beimel is trying to find his control once again. Matt Belisle, by far the workhorse for the early part of the season, has found himself in his first rough patch of the 2010 campaign.
Jim Tracy is in a tough situation. His team is five games out in the National League West. He has no room to give a guy a day off. However, Corpas has already appeared in 37 games, logging 42 innings. Belisle has appeared in 34 games and logged 47 innings. Early in the season it was almost a given that when Jimenez is on the mound the bullpen would get a break. That is not as much of a guarantee anymore.
No matter the difficulty, the win was huge for the Rockies. The pennant will not be won in June, but the Rockies must play well within their division in order to have a chance to win it for the first time in their 18 year history.
The Rockies continue their three game series with the division leading Padres on Tuesday. Jason Hammel looks to get back on track after getting knocked around by the Red Sox his last time out. He will face a tough lefty in Wade LeBlanc for the Padres.
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