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Rockies can’t pick up Ubaldo, fall out of first

Submitted by Sports on May 13, 2011 – 9:13 amNo Comment

DENVER — Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez is capable of throwing a sinking fastball that dominates opposing hitters. But it doesn’t do him much good when he perplexes himself with the pitch.

Unsure where the pitch was going, and ineffective with the slider to boot, Jimenez walked six in 3 2/3 innings as the Rockies’ 37-day reign atop the National League West ended with a 9-5 loss to the Mets before a sparse, wet and cold crowd at Coors Field on Thursday afternoon.

The game was rained out Wednesday, and Thursday’s start was delayed for two hours and 10 minutes. But Jimenez’s sinker never made it. With the slider also not a factor, he was limited to the straighter four-seam fastball and a split-finger pitch he uses for a changeup.

“It’s been really hard,” Jimenez said. “The two-seam fastball I want to throw to the corner, but it keeps running.”

The Mets’ Carlos Beltran hit a career-high three home runs, each for two runs. The six RBIs matched Beltran’s career high, accomplished three other times. Beltran homered off Jimenez (0-3) in the first inning — after Jimenez had walked Willie Harris — off Franklin Morales in the seventh and against Matt Lindstrom in the ninth.

“I have never seen a day like that before,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “I’ve seen a lot of real good players play, but he pretty much just said, ‘Hop on, I’ll take you in this one.’ Tremendous day, tremendous concentration. It was worth waiting two hours to watch.”

Beltran’s homer against Morales gave the Mets a 7-2 lead. It left too big a hole for the Rockies, who scored three in the bottom of the seventh and put two on base in the eighth.

The defending World Series champion Giants beat the D-backs, 3-2, to take first place in the NL West. The Rockies have lost eight of their last 10 — including 2-of-3 to the Mets, to fall to 8-8 at home — and are a far cry from the team that began the year 11-2.

But Seth Smith, whose two-run double was part of the seventh-inning rally, noted, “It’s May.” So the Rockies, who benefitted from solo home runs from Jonathan Herrera (his second of the season) in the first inning and Todd Helton (his fourth) to lead off the fourth, aren’t obsessing about the standings.

The inconsistency of Jimenez is another matter. The Rockies haven’t won with him on the mound since last Sept. 17, eight starts ago. In fairness, his last two starts of last season — when he finished 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA — were good enough to win.

Jimenez wasn’t a factor in the team’s strong start. A cut on his right thumb cuticle rendered him ineffective on Opening Day and cost him his next two starts. He didn’t have a quality start (six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs) until last Friday, when he gave up one run in two hits over six innings in a no-decision against the Giants. He walked five, however.

After Thursday, Jimenez has 22 walks, against 30 strikeouts, in 29 2/3 innings, and one good start in six this year.

On Thursday, Jimenez twice walked opposing starter Jon Niese (2-4), who gave up five runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. The second was especially costly. Jimenez already had given up a single, two outs and a run in the fourth, and had two outs when he walked Niese. Jose Reyes followed with a two-run single that forced Jimenez out of the game.

“I wish I knew … I’ve offered a lot of different things, done a lot of different things to try to get to the bottom of where we’re at,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “The health factor is not the situation. I wish I had an answer.”

Tracy said he trusts Jimenez, the struggling member of a rotation that has generally been solid, to find his form.

Much of the Rockies’ recent problems can be attributed to the offense, although the late rally Thursday was a positive. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who isn’t out of the woods yet, but drew three walks Thursday and has been taking better at-bats recently, said the Rockies still look to Jimenez as a leader.

“It’s hard, but that’s what we’re here for, to support Ubaldo,” Gonzalez said. “He’s a really good pitcher. We just need to remind him that he’s really good. It’s all about him. He’s the guy that’s going to step forward.”

Jimenez said he has found himself working “like a finesse pitcher,” trying to pitch in fine areas instead of letting the natural movement of his pitches work for him, mainly because that movement is even more extreme than usual. Still, Jimenez insists confidence isn’t an issue.

“I’m not going to get frustrated,” Jimenez said. “I know I’m not doing anything good for the team, but hopefully there’s a time that I start doing good.”

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