04/17/10 12:10 AM ET
Surging right-handers set for duel in Atlanta
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
Luckily for both clubs, Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez and Braves right-hander Kenshin Kawakami are off to strong starts this season.
Jimenez has been especially sharp in his two starts, posting a 2-0 record and a 2.25 ERA, with 13 strikeouts in 12 innings.
The 26-year-old last pitched on Sunday, when he allowed two runs, one earned, over six innings in the Rockies' 4-2 win over the Padres. But for Jimenez, who won 15 games and posted a 3.47 ERA last season, his goal is to go deeper into the game.
"I wanted to go seven or eight innings and couldn't do it, but it was good," Jimenez said of his last start.
Like Jimenez, Kawakami couldn't go deep into the game in his last start, but he was still effective -- he allowed two runs over six innings Sunday against the Giants. Kawakami, though, needed only 65 pitches to get through those six innings because he induced 11 ground-ball outs.
Kawakami simply ran into trouble in the sixth inning when he allowed a single to Pablo Sandoval and a two-run single to Mark DeRosa that gave the Giants the lead for good in the Braves' eventual 6-3 loss.
Braves manager Bobby Cox, however, still liked what he saw in Kawakami's 2010 debut.
"That's as good as I've ever seen [Kawakami]," Cox said. "It's a shame, because he only had like 60 pitches and he could have gone nine innings before we got behind. I was pleased with his outing, very much. He's not going to pitch any better than that. You've got to have luck."
Rockies: Hawpe, Helton back in lineup
Outfielder Brad Hawpe returned to the Rockies lineup on Friday after being limited to pinch-hit duty the past two games because of tightness in his left quadriceps. Hawpe went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a walk in his first game back. First baseman Todd Helton, who missed Thursday's game with flu-like symptoms and didn't fly to Atlanta with the rest of the club, also was in the lineup and went 1-for-5.
Braves: Saito exceeding expectations
The early returns on right-handed reliever Takashi Saito have been better than expected, with the former Dodgers closer riding a five-inning scoreless streak to open the season. Hitters are batting just .063 off Saito and he's twice appeared in back-to-back games. "I've gotten older, so I'm not where I once was," Saito said through his translator. "Now, I have more experience. I try not to chase my past, but rather look to the future for what I can do."
The Braves tried center fielder Nate McClouth in the leadoff spot for Friday's game and he responded by going 1-for-3 with a walk. ... Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez's left hamstring tightness cost him his fourth start on Friday night but he is expected to start on Saturday, according to Rockies manager Jim Tracy.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.