10/12/07 1:45 AM ET
Jimenez ready to impress in Game 2
Rockies rookie has come up huge in several crucial spots
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
"Wow," the scout gushed. "That was very impressive. If he can do that to a lineup like that on a consistent basis, the sky's the limit."
Of all the youngsters who have blossomed concurrently with Colorado's late-season rise, Jimenez's considerable talents have sprung forth in a bounty of a fall harvest for the Rockies.
The 23-year-old, who will start Game 2 of the NL Championship Series on Friday night at Chase Field, held Arizona hitless for 5 1/3 innings in his final regular-season start in a win that clinched a spot in the tiebreaker game against San Diego. Jimenez went 6 1/3 innings and allowed just one run on one hit with 10 strikeouts.
The Dominican Republic native followed that start with another gem in the NLDS-clinching game against the Phillies, although he received a no-decision. Jimenez's strong right arm has been a shot in the arm to the Colorado staff.
"We've all known about the great fastball," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. "The difference [now] I think is he's got better command of his off-speed stuff and a much better idea of how to pitch. It's been fun watching it come together for him."
As well as for the Rockies, who have won 18 of their last 19 games.
"We did beat [Arizona ace] Brandon Webb and won the first game, but it's still just one game and we need to keep it going," said Colorado left fielder Matt Holliday. "[The 5-1 victory in Game 1] was a great way to start, but we can't afford to let up."
For the first time in his last three starts, Jimenez is not pitching in a potential clinching game, though Game 2 of the NLCS ranks large on anybody's career chart.
Understandably, the rookie isn't dwelling too much on recent events or thinking about all that has happened in this amazing season. His focus is on simply repeating his performances of his last two starts or coming as reasonably close as he can.
"Right now, I'm just letting it happen," Jimenez said. "Probably, after everything is over, then I'll start thinking about it. But right now, [I'm] just trying to keep focus on what I'm doing right now. So just let it happen."
Jimenez's moving fastball, which has reached 100 miles per hour at times but is routinely 93-97, is a potent pitch by itself. Recently, he's had much better control of his slider, 11-to-5 curveball and changeup, three pitches he throws in the low 80s to low 90s range. He's also cut down on his walks.
"He's pitched very well," Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. "He just needs to stay focused on what he's been doing and he'll be OK."
The combination has made him a dominating pitcher, at least in his last couple of starts. Whether he can keep that command will be key to whether he sustains his dominance in the coming series.
"Just being able to stay back and just focus on the catcher's mitt, just trying to throw the ball low in the strike zone, don't try to strike everybody out," Jimenez said on Thursday, when asked what the key to his command had been in his last two starts.
That focus has also helped Jimenez improve his consistency with his off-speed pitches.
"I feel good with my slide a lot," Jimenez said. "When I'm far behind the count, I use it -- 3-2 count. So I feel confident with that."
Jimenez was matched against Philadelphia's Jamie Moyer in his last start. This time, he draws another veteran lefty in Arizona's Doug Davis.
"I don't really know him all that well," Davis said. "I know he throws 100. And I know he's got a good hook, too. But he's in the big leagues for a reason. He does throw the ball really hard. Mostly, you see relievers that throw that hard and can't last very long. But the times he's pitched against us, he's throwing 100 in the fifth and sixth inning. So he's a good pitcher."
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.