Ubaldo Jimenez pitches Colorado Rockies past Washington Nationals, 2-0

Ivan Rodriguez, who had two of the Nationals' seven hits, is out at second base as Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki applies the tag.
Ivan Rodriguez, who had two of the Nationals' seven hits, is out at second base as Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki applies the tag. (Ricky Carioti/the Washington Post)
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By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 23, 2010

Ubaldo Jimenez stands 6 feet 4 inches and weighs 210 pounds. He throws fastballs that scrape 100 mph, darting change-ups and crisp, parabolic curveballs. Think, for a moment, if that reminds you of anyone. In effect, the Washington Nationals experienced Thursday afternoon a close replication of what they'll unleash on the National League once they call up Stephen Strasburg.

Five days after Jimenez threw the first no-hitter in Colorado Rockies history, he outdueled Livan Hernandez and shut down a depleted Washington lineup in a 2-0 Nationals loss at Nationals Park. Both Jimenez and Hernandez provided masterful performances, but the Rockies managed a pair of solo home runs off Hernandez while Jimenez yielded almost nothing.

Hernandez allowed two runs on four hits in eight innings, leaving him with an ERA of 0.75. But on Thursday, before a crowd of 15,518, it wasn't enough. Jimenez shut out the Nationals for 7 1/3 innings, allowing five hits, and validated his no-hitter with another dominant start. Jimenez and Hernandez, a 35-year-old who wins with guile, shared nothing aside from effectiveness.

"They did it different ways," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "But they both got it done."

Playing without Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham in the starting lineup, the Nationals didn't advance a runner past second base until the eighth inning. The Nationals had their cleanup hitter, but Jimenez struck out Adam Dunn all three times he faced him. Dunn completed his 0-for-4 day with a lineout in the ninth.

Dunn has four hits in his last 23 at-bats and is hitting .176 for the year with a .294 slugging percentage. But Riggleman is not planning time off for Dunn. "I think every day is the day he's going to break out," Riggleman said.

The Nationals' best threat against Jimenez came in the eighth. Alberto Gonzalez led off by poking an 0-2, 97-mph fastball through the middle of the infield and scooted to second on a wild pitch. Jimenez, having thrown 121 pitches, exited one out later for former National Joe Beimel. Nyjer Morgan popped up a bunt, and Cristian Guzman followed with a dribbler to shortstop that he beat out for an infield single. For the first time all day, the Nationals had put a man on third base.

Gonzalez stayed there. Willie Harris, who had doubled and drawn a walk off Jimenez, flied deep to right. The crowd gave a roar, but it settled harmlessly into Carlos Gonzalez's glove.

Hernandez entered the game having not allowed an earned run in 16 innings, and if not for two pitches his ERA would still be 0.00. With two outs in the first inning, Hernandez left Miguel Olivo an 81-mph slider over the plate on a 3-2 count, and Olivo crushed a home run over the Rockies' bullpen in left field. In the seventh, Ian Stewart golfed an 84-mph cutter into the right field seats.

"I pitched the ball good," Hernandez said. "I'm not going to win every game."

Those two missteps aside, Hernandez was again brilliant and beguiling. He struck out Troy Tulowitzki twice, once looking at a Wiffle ball-in-the-backyard, 65-mph curve that nicked the top of the strike zone. In three starts, Hernandez has allowed two runs in 24 innings on 13 hits.

"We just didn't get it done for him today," Morgan said. "Especially when a guy like that's battling, it makes you want to get that W for him."

Jimenez may have thrown a no-hitter in his last start, but he could not have been much more dominant than he was Thursday for the first seven innings. Ten of his first 21 outs were either strikeouts or groundouts back to the pitcher.

Two of the hits yielded by Jimenez were singles off the bat of Ivan Rodriguez. Batting fifth for the first time this year, Rodriguez went 2 for 4 and pushed his league-leading average to .449. He has six consecutive multi-hit games in which he started.

So the Nationals settled for a split with the reigning NL wild-card team, further establishing themselves. "It's just a different ballclub" than last year, Rockies Manager Jim Tracy said. "They're headed in the right direction. Simple as that."

Afterward, one Nationals player said he thought about Strasburg as Jimenez pitched. The Nationals' future may be bright, and on Thursday, Jimenez offered a potential glimpse of a certain pitcher that future includes.

"Nah, man," Morgan said. "Our guy is better. Our guy is a lot better than him. We got something special, too."

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