|Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (38) delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the third inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 9, 2011, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)|
Jimenez gives up 5 hits in 8 innings for 2-1 win
WASHINGTON—Ubaldo Jimenez is happy again going into baseball's break.
Unlike last year, the Colorado Rockies' starter isn't going to be playing in the All-Star game, but he capped a tough first half with one of his best performances of the season. Jimenez allowed one run in eight innings and struck out eight as the Colorado Rockies beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 on Saturday night.
"It's really good when you finish on a high note," Jimenez said. "Especially with the kind of beginning I had, I struggled a lot, and to finish in this way is going to help me a lot for the second half. Not only me, but the whole team."
One year ago, the right-hander was the National League starter in the All-Star game. So far this season, Jimenez (4-8) has struggled to regain the form that put him on top. He didn't get his first win until June 1, but now he thinks everything is in place.
His teammates are just as glad to see it as Jimenez is.
"He was dirty, no doubt about it. That was the old Ubaldo," said Todd Helton, who homered, doubled and drove in both runs. "It's good to have him back."
The Rockies have won two in a row and will go for the series sweep Sunday.
"At this point, it's not just about winning a series, it's about winning every game," said closer Huston Street, who pitched the ninth for his 26th save. "We've got to play catchup and do it quick. We've got to put ourselves in the conversation and become relevant, and you have to win to do that."
Jimenez retired the first 13 batters before Michael Morse singled with one out in the fifth inning. In all, Jimenez allowed five hits and walked one. It was the third time this season Jimenez pitched at least eight innings, all coming on the road.
"I think it's safe to say that tonight we won with pitching, and that was the Ubaldo Jimenez of a year ago," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "He was in complete control from the outset."
Ian Desmond singled, tripled and scored the lone run for the Nationals, who have lost three consecutive one-run games.
Nationals starter Jason Marquis (7-4) was coming off his worst start of the season, when he gave up four runs on eight hits over 1 1-3 innings in a loss to Pittsburgh on July 3. Marquis was much better against the Rockies, but was no match for Jimenez as he allowed two runs on five hits in six innings, walking four and striking out one.
"Ubaldo was just sharp tonight. You tip your hat," Marquis said. "It was just one of those games."
Helton hit his 10th homer into the seats above the out-of-town scoreboard in right field in the fourth inning. He drove in another run with a groundout in the fifth inning.
Desmond led off the sixth inning with a liner to center which bounced over the sliding Spilborghs for a triple. Desmond scored on pinch-hitter Rick Ankiel's groundout to second.
The Rockies were poised to add to their lead in the eighth inning. Helton's double and an intentional walk to Tulowitzki gave Colorado runners on first and second with one out. Seth Smith lined a ball to left, and Nix made a diving catch before doubling up Helton.
"It's obviously a good game to win," Tracy said. "And tomorrow would probably be even better to win that ballgame and create some serious momentum for ourselves going into the break."
Notes: Tulowitzki started after missing the last four games with a tight hamstring. ... Colorado OF Carlos Gonzalez (bruised right wrist) was out of the starting lineup, although he came on in the ninth as a defensive replacement. Gonzalez had missed four games before returning Friday. "He's sore today. Still feeling it a little bit," Tracy said. Tracy added there was a "remote" chance of Gonzalez playing Sunday. ... Nationals C Jesus Flores, recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Friday, made his first start since May 9, 2009. ... A day after being hit in the nose with a line drive, Nationals LHP John Lannan said there was a small break in the cartilage on the side of his nose, but he doesn't expect to miss a start. "It wasn't as bad as it looked," Lannan said. ... It was Tracy's 200th win with the Rockies.