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The story is the same one every fifth day, it seems. Ubaldo Jimenez once again dominates an opponent. On Thursday afternoon, the Rockies salvaged the final game of a three game series, winning 5-1.
This time, the victim was the Minnesota Twins. After two wins over the lifeless Rockies, Minnesota looked to sweep Colorado out of newly-built Target Field. The only thing standing between them and their goal was a pitcher who had already racked up 12 wins coming into the game.
The way Jimenez has pitched all year, when the Rockies picked up three runs in the first inning off of a seemingly nervous Francisco Liriano, it almost felt as if the game was in the bag before Jimenez even stepped on the mound. After all, Jimenez has only given up three runs in a game once all season long, and that came last Friday night in rainy, wet conditions that kept him from getting both a good grip on the ball and a firm landing spot on the mound.
On Thursday, however, Jimenez did not have his best stuff. He was consistently around 97 MPH on the radar, but was leaving pitches up in the zone just enough for the Twins to be able to get some decent wood on the ball.
What is starting to set Jimenez apart from other pitchers in the league, however, is that there is no need to fret when he allows runners on base. On Thursday, he erased five base runners with double play balls turned by his defense behind him. While his defense provided some great plays, it was Jimenez inducing ground ball after ground ball that kept the Twins runners off the bases.
Normally when a pitcher possesses the ability to throw 100 MPH, that pitcher relies on the strikeout when he gets into trouble. Not Jimenez. Jimenez simply pounds the lower half of the strike zone and induces ground ball double play after ground ball double play.
In all, Jimenez went eight innings. He gave up one run on eight hits. He struck out four and walked just two. The lone run came in the eighth inning when Jimenez was clearly tiring. Jim Thome pinch hit and lined a one-out double to the base of the wall. He was lifted for a pinch runner and the next batter, Drew Butera, dropped a single into center field that scored the run.
For those watching Jimenez pitch all season long, it is a different feeling when he is on the mound. Every pitch is nerve-wracking because of the ERA game going on with Jimenez. It almost feels as if he has to outdo himself every time he takes the hill. Even with a 5-0 lead in the eighth inning, it feels like something went horribly wrong when a run crosses the plate on Jimenez's watch. It makes sense when he has given up just 13 runs in over 100 innings pitched.
There are a few mind boggling numbers that go beyond Jimenez simply having 13 wins in the middle of June. This was the 10th time Jimenez has picked up a win after a Rockies loss. His ERA, after giving up one run in eight innings, went up to 1.15. There is not another pitcher in the league who would dream of having their ERA go up after an eight inning, one run performance.
The Rockies have something special with Jimenez. He is putting together a season that may be remembered for years to come. It would be a shame if the rest of the team never reached their full potential and made all of Jimenez's good work be in vain.