Jimenez shows resolve in Game 2
Young right-hander keeps damage to minimum in start
PHOENIX -- Instead of dominating them like he'd done in two previous encounters, Ubaldo Jimenez constantly teased the Diamondbacks this time. Nevertheless, he left them feeling the same sort of frustration.
While Jimenez' inconsistent control put him in a few unenviable situations at Chase Field on Friday night, the Rockies rookie right-hander boldly withstood heavy damage. It was one of those bend-but-don't break performances that further proved this young hurler possesses more than a fastball that can regularly flirt with 100 mph.
"It was a gutsy performance," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said after Jimenez helped the Rockies claim a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series with a 3-2, 11-inning win over the Diamondbacks.
"He pitched around some traffic," Hurdle said. "But he hung in there. He's got a lot of confidence, plus he's got good stuff."
While allowing three earned runs or less in nine of his final 10 regular-season starts, Jimenez proved he belonged in the Majors. When he limited the Phillies to three hits in six innings in last weekend's Division Series clinching victory, he could rise to the challenge.
Then, while limiting the Diamondbacks to one run in five stress-filled innings on Friday, the 23-year-old right-hander proved he has nerves of steel. Pitching in front of a raucous opposing crowd was one thing.
Doing so in a successful manner despite allowing at least one runner to reach second base in four of his five innings, further proved this flamethrower might prove to be something special. "He really showed me that he likes to be in this situation, and that when he's out there, he's going to make his pitches," Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. "He didn't let the crowd or anybody bug him."
Torrealba's assistance wasn't limited solely to pitch selection. After Doug Davis' leadoff double led to a run courtesy of Chris Young's RBI single, the veteran catcher made sure there wouldn't be any further third-inning damage.
When Young attempted to steal second base to give the Diamondbacks a runner at second and nobody out, Torrealba's precise throw was good enough to retire the speedy outfielder, who'd have been safe had his outstretched left arm not been stopped by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's left foot.
"He looked like at times a little bit rattled out there and we just couldn't come through, whether it was with one more walk, one more ball that's squared up or one hit," Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. "It looked like several times we had a chance to get him out of there."
After Tony Clark began the second inning with a double, Jimenez struck out three of the next four batters he faced. He'd leave runners stranded a first and second again with an inning-ending strikeout in the fourth. But his best strikeout came in the fifth, when with the bases-loaded, he needed just three pitches to retire Mark Reynolds.
"I was thinking I've got to throw my best pitch," Jimenez said. "I threw my fastball with everything that I had."
Jimenez, who had limited the Diamondbacks to one hit and one run over 6 1/3 innings on Sept. 30, threw first-pitch strikes to just eight of the 23 batters that he faced. But he still managed to throw strikes whenever the pressure mounted and danger loomed.
"I don't feel any nerves," Jimenez said. "I'm just excited to be out there."
While it was Willy Taveras who made a run-saving catch in the seventh and then drew the decisive bases-loaded walk off Jose Valverde in the 11th inning, Jimenez's stubborn resilience couldn't be overlooked. Unfortunately, because Manny Corpas couldn't hold a one-run, ninth-inning lead and blew just his second save opportunity in his past 62 appearances, the performance wasn't rewarded with his first career postseason victory.
Still, while allowing just two earned runs in his first two postseason starts, Jimenez has proven to be a valuable piece for the Rockies, who have won 19 of 20 games. They now need to win just two more times over the course of the next five games to advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
"We're thinking about it now," Jimenez said. "That's why we're here."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.