The Baseball Cluster: Ubaldo Jimenez's No-Hitter and 20 Innings of Pain

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The Baseball Cluster: Ubaldo Jimenez's No-Hitter and 20 Innings of Pain
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THE MEAT OF THE ORDER

Every week there are three things I deem to be really important. It's kind of like the "meat" of my lineup.

1. Ubaldo Jimenez throws first no-hitter in Colorado Rockies’ history.

I’m pretty sure about this, but I believe he’s the first person not only named Ubaldo to throw a no-hitter, but he’s the first person with a U to begin his first name to throw a no-hitter.

That’s some Elias research right there.

Anyway congratulations are in order for Ubaldo Jimenez on throwing a no-hitter, even though he walked a million people in the process.

But hey, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. He did walk the leadoff hitter in the third through fifth innings, however.

At that point, I would have put the chances of him getting through the game at slim, not because it was likely he would get hit, but it was more likely he’d get tired from throwing all those pitches and eventually leave one out there to get smacked.

Then again, he did leave one out there and Troy Glaus pulverized it to left-center field, but that is where Dexter Fowler roams, more on that spectacular piece of glove work at the end of The Cluster.

Bonus points need to be given to Miguel Olivo who actually predicted this was going to happen. Wait, he did?

According to the Denver Post , Olivo asked if pitching coach Bob Apodaca would give him a $1,000 if he caught a no-hitter. I don’t know if that is technically a prediction, but it is good enough to say Olivo knew something was up with Jimenez’s stuff.

Or maybe Olivo is just that good with pitchers. He caught Anibal Sanchez’s no-hitter back in 2006 and he was behind the plate for 31 of Zack Greinke’s starts in 2009, when he won the AL Cy Young.

Either way, Olivo didn’t make Apodaca pay up, which is less predictable than Olivo’s bold statement about Jimenez’s no-hitter.

 

2. And 20 innings later, this game is finally over.

It took almost seven hours to complete, but by golly the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals managed to finally finish that Saturday night marathon of a baseball game.

Who said baseball games take too long?

What’s crazy is that the Mets not only won, but they also blew the lead once, were getting no-hit at one point late in the game, and they didn’t even have more than one hit through 11 innings.

Eventually though, you have to break through, especially if your opponent isn’t scoring, and double that expectancy when the opposing team starts throwing out position players to the mound.

I mean really, from what we know, Felipe Lopez has never pitched before, not even before becoming a professional. Joe Mather had experience as a pitcher, but there is a reason he’s swinging the bat as well.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the stats at this point, with only four players not getting used, an ungodly number of pitches thrown, and of course an even higher number of strikeouts from Jason Bay.

I’m teasing, but he had just as many strikeouts as Albert Pujols had walks. What does that tell you about how feared that man is? What does this game tell you about the Mets lineup, who despite winning, had nine hits, three of them from Angel Pagan.

Angel Pagan!?

Oh and there is a point where you tip your hat and say it was good pitching, but that ended pretty much after the ninth inning. Combined, both teams were 1-for-25 with runners in scoring position.

1-for-25, Angel Pagan?!

One hell of a game, or one game from hell? You can decide on that one for yourself.

 

3. Ready for the breakout?

With just two weeks completed it already looks like we have a few breakout candidates emerging in the game.

Yes, two weeks is just a small sample size, but these players all have the talent that make you believe their performances can be sustained.

Ubaldo Jimenez is one of them, but just based of the fact that we already devoted enough time to his no-hitter, I’ll set him off to the side.

How about the MLB leader in home runs and AL leader in RBI, Nelson Cruz? I think everyone took note of him last season, especially during the Home Run Derby, but Cruz is starting to establish himself as Texas’ biggest threat.

Then you’ve got the AL Wins and ERA leader, Matt Garza, who is putting together his wicked stuff and even more wicked raised eyebrow to put in three straight eight-inning starts in the early going.

And of course it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention the one guy that I just watched have one of the more impressive six game stretches in recent history by a Cleveland Indian.

Shin-Soo Choo topped off his series against Chicago with a grand slam and five RBI which pretty much powered the sweep of the White Sox.

In addition to that, he knocked in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game and also single-handedly won Thursday’s game against Texas with a three-run homer.

You just have to love watching young players grow up before your eyes and starting to establish themselves. I hope and expect to see all four of these in the All-Star game. They’ve all got the potential and early-season momentum to do so.

 

THAT'S JUST WEIRD, MAN

Baseball never has a shortage of weird and wacky statistics or situations. These are those situations. Cue the Law and Order chime.

Did anyone notice the Target mascot, a real-life dog named Bullseye, sitting behind home plate on Monday in the Twins’ opener? I didn’t see the game, but apparently the dog occupied one of Target’s seats until the start of the second inning.

Executives claim it wasn’t really a marketing ploy, but just the simple fact that it has got people talking is enough publicity.

The MLB is getting some bad publicity with their silly uniform regulations. They’ve taken away the hoodie from approved dugout attire and it has really impacted Joe Maddon in particular.

I’m assuming players can still sport them, but managers and coaches can no longer put on anything that isn’t an official team jacket or approved pullover by Majestic.

Maddon went ahead and called it his security blanket and even took a nice jab by saying “It may have something to do with the pace of the game,” when questioning what the MLB was doing in getting rid of the hoodie.

Should we be banning players from using certain songs as their walk-up music? I started up the campaign way before the season started for Andy Marte to use Miley Cyrus’ summer hit “Party in the USA” as his walk-up music.

The whole point is that Marte can easily replace USA in the lyrics and it would still sound the same. Predictably, Marte hasn’t listened to me.

Nick Johnson, Troy Tulowitzki, and Cameron Maybin have though. All have reportedly used the song as their batting music. Johnson says he did it for his daughter.

Interested to know why Tulowitzki and Maybin have done this. As younger players, you could assume they are fans, but who knows.

Should we be encouraging this, though? When you think of tough and rugged baseball players, you don’t exactly think Hannah Montana or whatever we are supposed to officially call her.

And on a final note, we have a few unruly fans to shine the spotlight on. They aren’t quite the Mets fans booing the training staff, in fact, they are pretty bad.

I didn’t hear about the woman who ran down someone for being a Red Sox fan until this past week. The woman is being sentenced for running over and killing a man who was taunting her for being a Yankee fan.

She said she was terrified because people were pounding on her window, which is just obnoxious in its own right, but how did she end up hitting someone with a car?

Not quite murder, but pretty disgusting to see a Phillies fan vomit all over an 11-year-old girl. Police say it was intentionally done, but seeing as how the guy was completely plastered, I bet the guy had no clue what was going on.

Someone sent in a report to deadspin.com about what actually happened because he was in the middle of it. True or not, it is disheartening to see that we cannot at least act older than some of the kids in attendance.

 

YOUR LUKE HOCHEVAR UPDATE

Every week we look at Luke Hochevar because a first-round pick needs pressure, even if he plays for Royals.

Last Week's Line: 2 GS, 11.0 IP, 12 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 8 BB, 9 K, W (2-0)

Our boy Luke got two starts this past week and oddly enough, his Royals won both games 10-5. The Royals are now 3-0 in Hochevar starts after he picked up his first two wins of the season against Detroit and Minnesota.

After showing better control in his first outing against the Tigers, Hochevar walked eight the past two games. His ground ball to fly ball ratio also reversed from being ground ball-heavy to fly ball-heavy.

If you are getting ground ball outs, you are keeping the ball down, that is common sense. Hochevar gave up 23 home runs last season one of the higher totals in the AL last year.

So far only one this season, but if he keeps trending towards the fly ball outs, he could end up back in the same trouble he found himself in last year.

 

I'M A STAT MAN

I'm not really a big statistics guy, but I guess it's better than being a scat man, because I don't know what that is.

With the Twins opening up their new ballpark, there are bound to be a lot of firsts and of course a lot of historical importance.

By helping the Twins open up Target Field in Minnesota, it marked the fifth time Boston played in a stadium opening game. It is also the fifth time they’ve lost a stadium opening game. Yet they haven’t opened up a stadium since 1923 when they helped open up Oriole Park.

ESPN has a twitter account that tweets nothing but interesting statistics and information. One of the best I saw this past week had to do with the last time the Twins had a home shutout outdoors. It was in 1981 against the Blue Jays when they had current Rangers’ manager Ron Washington playing shortstop and current Celtics GM Danny Ainge was playing third base for Toronto.

While I plan on using this as a major point in an upcoming piece on Fausto Carmona, this statistic is too good to not use here. Carmona has allowed just five hits (none coming into his start against Chicago in 20 at-bats) to left-handed pitching in three starts this year. Last year against lefties he was pounded to the tune of a .331 average compared to just a .245 average against righties. It’s a small sample, but it is a dramatic change thus far.

With all the pitchers that are back after missed 2009 years, there are bound to be a lot of “first wins since 2008” stats flowing around. But Justin Duchscherer picked up his first win since July of 2008 when he beat the same team he beat then, Seattle. You can’t plan that.

And then there is Kris Benson, who made his first major league start since 2006 this past week when he got the nod for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Honestly, I thought Benson had been injured to the point of giving up.

I’m sure you’ve heard it by now, but Jorge Cantu drove in a run in his first ten games. The first nine set the MLB record for most consecutive games with an RBI to start a season.

Cantu leads the entire major leagues with 16 RBI, which is four more than the entire Houston Astros team. Speaking of the Astros, Brad Mills’ managerial career got off to a record rocky start. By losing eight straight, he tied the fourth longest streak to begin a career in MLB history.

 

THE UTILITY PLAYER

For all the stuff that defies categorization, this is the utility player of the weekly feature. We play everywhere and anywhere here!

Two key players went on the disabled list this past week for their clubs and are likely to miss at least a month’s worth of action. Everyone will take note of Jimmy Rollins, but Miguel Montero’s six week absence is just as important to Arizona.

In just four games Montero already had six hits, which is still more than replacement Chris Snyder has. Philadelphia is far from offensively challenged and replacing Rollins for a few weeks probably won’t sting long term.

But for a team that got destroyed with injuries last year, Arizona’s loss of Montero has to scare them in the early goings.

In other transaction news former Oriole Hayden Penn was designated for assignment by Pittsburgh to make room for former Oriole Brian Burres. That doesn’t say good things about the Pirates or the Orioles, does it?

Miguel Batista tried to hug Jose Reyes during a dust-up between Washington and New York when Francisco Rodriguez hit Willie Harris. Reyes refused and said he didn’t want to because they were supposed to be in a fight. Hey if you know the guy real well, what’s the big deal? I suppose a friendly greeting like a hug isn’t the right way, but so what if you are supposed to be in a fight, he’s your friend.

The MLB moved a few umpires around off their normal crews to get a Minnesota-feel for the Twins home opener in their new stadium. St. Paul natives Tim Tschida and Mark Wegner were joined by another Minnesota native, Jeff Nelson, to be the umpires for the Twins and Red Sox.

Oh and then the rain? It was the first time in 29 years that rain impacted a home game in Minnesota. Better get used to that up in Minnesota.

They do play baseball outside the United States, so don’t think the Utility Player won’t go outside the states, because we will. Canadian Mark Teahen tripled in the go-ahead run and went 3-5 with 3 RBI in Toronto’s opener. Canada didn’t win, but one of their own did.

Speaking of Canadians, I think if you didn’t hear by now, you should really know that Eric Gagne retired from baseball. In a way it is kind of sad that Gagne went from “punch out artist” to “punch line” towards the end of his career, but Cleveland benefited from one of his meltdowns in the 2007 ALCS, so I’m not too sad.

Major League Baseball deserves some praise for some of the things they do to strengthen the game. Their RBI program is great and I think they doing more than an adequate job to get baseball more of a prominent role within other countries.

They’re definitely making a nice boost with their latest efforts in Australia. MLB is funding the Australian Baseball Federation, a six-team, 40-game schedule baseball league that will locate teams in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Canberra.

I think we all recognized how big the Netherlands doing well in the World Baseball Classic was for both baseball and that country itself. If this league strengthens the Australian system, then all the better.

 

"HE'S GARBAGE, STILL GARBAGE, GOING TO DIE AS GARBAGE"

The above is Ozzie Guillen's feelings towards columnist Jay Mariotti. It is the representation for The Cluster’s section on weekly rants.

Can someone tell me why Minor League Baseball’s website is junk now?

It probably has to do with the fact that the Akron Aeros have their own official website (which is why they don’t have a uniform one that looks like this rather than this ) and not an official one set up by MILB.com, but I’m eternally frustrated.

You see it isn’t until the next day that the Aeros site run by MILB.com is updated with the last game, even if it was played at 10:30 in the morning. Not only that, if I try and access the box score, (which is an adventure in itself just to get to) it isn’t updated throughout the end of the game, even though I know the game is over.

Why am I complaining about this? Why can’t I just wait until the next day to access the box score when it is updated?

Why should I have to wait when last year I didn’t have this problem? We are regressing here, not progressing. I’m not even asking for progression really, I just want the old interface back.

This is starting to feel like I’m one of those people complaining to get the old Facebook back. I better quit.

 

AWAY FROM THE DIAMOND

Everything from Rasmus girl to the latest commercials, this is your weekly update about things that really have nothing to do with baseball on the field.

David Newhan is working towards a return to the big leagues. He spent 2009 in the Phillies minor league system and was injured in the offseason surfing when he slammed his head into a sandbar. Newhan has been taking batting practice and working out daily after nearly 20 weeks shuffling through neck braces.

They didn’t have to wait as long as David Newhan to but the Rays got stuck for three hours waiting for plane issues to be resolved as they departed for their first road trip of the season on Sunday night.

Alright Facebookers, who was impersonating Rex Hudler? I love how fake accounts prompt the agents and PR gurus of players, coaches, and everyone else to actually get real ones. On a side note, I've reached my limit of Facebook mentions for the season.

Ozzie Guillen sure shouldn’t be expected to learn the names of opposing players (he called Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta several things, from “Matola” to “the fat kid at first base) but his own fans are pretty angry with him.

Fans have sent in angry e-mails to Ozzie over the bad start the White Sox have been off to. What I want to really know here is how they got Ozzie Guillen’s e-mail address? I know the guy is on twitter, but does he just make his e-mail address public knowledge?

If so, I’ve got some ideas to shoot his way. None of which have really anything to do with baseball but rather with his post-game press conferences.

 

GOOD DEED OF THE WEEK

Because we aren't all fun and games, I highlight one good deed that I've come across in the world of baseball. If you know of one, please send it my way.

Can Joe Mauer do anything wrong?

As a part of a fundraising effort from the Minnesota Twins, there will be at least 14, with the potential of at least 50, statues of Joe Mauer scattered throughout downtown Minneapolis this season.

Why statues of Joe Mauer? Well Joe Mauer is the face of the franchise obviously, but each statue will be commemorating a particular season to celebrate 50 seasons of Twins baseball.

All of this is according to the Star Tribune , which does a way better job than I do explaining the specific details of this cause. You can read more about it, here .

 

AND THIS WEEK IN THE CENTRAL

Every week we take a look at the latest happening in one of the game’s Central divisions. Why? Because it provides us with the most entertainment, that’s why!

Anyone want to guess which division has the worst bullpens?

Given that this is in the part of the Cluster that deals with the AL and NL Central, you’ve got a 50/50 shot to get this one right.

The worst bullpen in the game does reside in Kansas City, but as of Sunday the NL Central has four of the ten worst bullpens in all of the game. For a division with six teams, that’s pretty bad I would say.

Pittsburgh 6.32, Chicago 6.30, Houston 6.23, and Cincinnati 5.81, are all sporting bad bullpen earned-run averages in the early goings of this season.

Best bullpen? How about in Minnesota? They don’t have the lowest ERA, but combined Twins relievers have allowed just one walk in the past two weeks. Impressive, even more so since they’re missing their All-Star closer.

 

FOR THE LOVE OF GLOVE

Each week I pick my top three defensive plays, because Ozzie Smith didn't make the Hall of Fame for swinging the stick.

Honorable mention for this week, goes to Scott Podsednik only because it is tough to contend with plays in a no-hitter and a 20-inning game.

3. Hey Gordon Beckham, stop cheating with your superior range !

2. No truth to the rumor that I started that Ubaldo Jimenez bought Dexter Folwer a horse for making this catch. Why? Fowler doesn’t need one to run down a fly ball like that . You know you’ve made a great play when the opposing crowd is clapping.

1. You never know, but this could be the reason they played ten extra innings in St. Louis. More impressively, Alex Cora isn’t really a first baseman.

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Nino Colla writes "The Baseball Cluster" every week, or so he hopes. If you've got something that you think fits one of the sections, send him a private message or reach him on twitter . All absurdities are welcome.

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