Ubaldo hits wall after fourth inning
Rockies ace allows five runs in fifth, sixth frames
PHILADELPHIA -- It wasn't so much a matter of what particular pitch was working well for Colorado starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez through the first four innings of Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday.
"Early, he had everything going," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said.
Clocked at 101 mph at times, Jimenez mixed in a nasty breaking ball and changeup that induced a lot of bad swings. In one vexing at-bat for Chase Utley in the first inning, he fouled off a 101-mph fastball and then looked at a called third strike on a changeup that was clocked at 89 mph.
Same arm action, same look, but a 12-mph differential that had the Phillies shaking their heads in relative disbelief.
"He's a good pitcher, man. He's got good stuff. The guy throws hard," Philadelphia left fielder Jayson Werth said. "To kind of cruise through the first few innings like that with that many pitches, he's got good stuff."
But Jimenez's strong start turned sour in the fifth inning and then fell apart completely in the sixth as the Phillies scored five runs in those two innings to coast to a 5-1 win over the Rockies before the largest crowd (46,452) in Citizens Bank Ballpark history.
So what happened? How did Jimenez, who essentially breezed through the heart of the Phillies lineup nearly twice, throwing 46 pitches over four innings, slip so badly in the fifth and sixth innings?
"We got some guys on base and I think he became concerned with the runners," Rollins said. "He was still throwing hard, but in the hittable part of the zone."
He certainly wasn't early on, though.
Jimenez threw 10 pitches in each of the first two innings. The Phillies then pushed him to 12 pitches in the third inning and saw a grand total of 14 more in the fourth inning, which ended when slugger Ryan Howard, who singled with two outs, was caught stealing.
The ledger for the 25-year-old to that point was impressive; four innings, four strikeouts, no walks and not once during the blissful stretch did Jimenez allow the leadoff batter to reach base.
"I was throwing all my pitches, fastball, changeup, breaking balls," Jimenez said. "After that [fourth inning], I just [lost] my control. I was falling behind in the count with everything."
It all started with a leadoff walk to Werth to start the fifth inning. Raul Ibanez then went down and turned on a 3-1 changeup, lining it past the glove of Todd Helton at first base and into the corner for an RBI double.
One out later, and after Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz worked him for eight pitches in the at-bat, Jimenez allowed an RBI single on a slider. The ball skipped past Colorado right fielder Brad Hawpe, but Ibanez would have scored anyway.
Jimenez would get out of the inning trailing 2-0, and he stayed in the game and hit for himself to begin the sixth inning. He struck out before allowing three consecutive hits to open the bottom half, including an RBI double to Howard and an RBI triple to Werth.
That would be the end of the day for Jimenez, who allowed five runs on nine hits in five-plus innings.
"If you don't execute your pitches against this ballclub, then they are going to hurt you," Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba said.
One popular thought was that the Phillies, after a turn through the lineup, went up to the plate with a much more discerning eye, looking to make Jimenez work harder than he had been. But Jimenez wasn't buying it.
"I think they were still aggressive," Jimenez said. "... I don't think they were taking any more pitches."
Colorado manager Jim Tracy was asked if he considered pinch-hitting for Jimenez in the sixth inning. Although the right-hander hadn't worked up much of a sweat for four innings, he had thrown 35 pitches in the fifth inning alone.
"He was really, really on his game into the fifth inning. He had all of his stuff. His pitch count was probably better than it's been in any game he's pitched over the last month," Tracy said. "A 2-0 game, a single and a ball hit out of the ballpark and you're back tied.
"I don't think that's a very good message to send to a guy that after they scratch two runs off of him, that you remove him from the game."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.