Pitching prowess lifting Rockies
Jimenez passes another big test with clutch start in clincher
DENVER -- This Colorado Rockies team is different from all those before it, and not just because it can win 17 of 18 games.
It's different because it can pitch.
The Rockies that advanced to the NL Championship Series Saturday night have legitimate arms, from Game 3 rookie starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who pitched into the seventh inning allowing only one run, to rookie closer Manny Corpas, who finished off the series sweep of Philadelphia the way he completed each of the three games, with a save.
"We have more good arms than at any time in the past," said manager Clint Hurdle.
The Phillies brought the league's most potent offense into this series and after the 2-1 loss in Game 3, they had been outscored, 16-8. The 23-year-old Jimenez outdueled 44-year-old Jamie Moyer, allowing only three hits and one run on Shane Victorino's homer with one out in the seventh inning.
"I didn't think Ubaldo could out-do his Sunday performance, but I think he did," Hurdle said, referring to Jimenez's six innings of one-hit ball against Arizona in a game the Rockies had to win to force Monday night's playoff win over San Diego.
"He was pitching against Whitey Ford out there tonight. Jamie Moyer, how good was he tonight? He was masterful, but our kid matched him pitch for pitch. He's fun to watch. Three hits going six-plus innings, in that venue with a game of this meaning, I'm just very proud of him."
Carlos Ruiz followed Victorino's homer with a single and Hurdle went to the bullpen, first calling on journeyman Matt Herges, who retired pinch-hitters Greg Dobbs and Tadahito Iguchi to put down the seventh inning. Brian Fuentes, the former All-Star closer relegated to setup duty with the emergence of Corpas, struck out two in a perfect eighth inning.
Corpas overwhelmed the Phillies in the ninth, getting Ryan Howard on a called strike three, Aaron Rowand on a cue shot to first baseman Todd Helton, and a routine bouncer to second base by Victorino.
"Don't let Jimenez get lost in the shuffle," Herges requested. "To shut down their offense, that was huge. He's got ice water in his veins for a rookie. And Corpas, too, they've got maturity beyond their years to pitch like that in games like this. The young guys pump strikes. And I think they know what's going on. They're not ignorant. They realize the magnitude of what's happening here."
Jimenez struck out the side in an eventful first inning, when he also walked Chase Utley and allowed a line single by Howard that put runners on the corners. But his strikeout of Rowand was the first of 11 consecutive outs.
He wasn't intimidated by the Phillies lineup or rattled by the 14-minute delay when a computer glitch shut off the field lights one pitch into the top of the second inning. Jimenez finished with four walks and five strikeouts.
"All the guys tried to help me out, just telling me to relax and take it easy and pitch my game," said Jimenez.
Hurdle gave his pitching coach Bob Apodaca credit for breaking down Phillies hitters and implementing the game plan to shut down their offense. The top five hitters in Philadelphia's lineup Saturday night -- Jimmy Rollins, Utley, Pat Burrell, Howard and Rowand -- went a combined 10-for-55 (.182) in the series.
"Phenomenal," said Hurdle.
Technically, this was Jimenez's first postseason start. But it had no greater pressure than his game last Sunday. He threw faster last Sunday, but catcher Yorvit Torrealba said Jimenez threw better Saturday night.
"He was on his game," said Torrealba. "He wasn't throwing that hard tonight, but he wasn't missing that bad and he was keeping the ball down. All of his pitches were working. His sinker was a big thing tonight. He got some movement in on his fastball and we just tried to finish hitters with a slider and the slider was there."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.