ATLANTA – Once Ubaldo Jimenez found the strike zone, the Atlanta Braves had no chance.
Jimenez pitched the first no-hitter in the Colorado Rockies’ 18-year history and the majors’ first this season, getting help from a spectacular catch by Dexter Fowler in the seventh inning of a 4-0 win over the Braves on Saturday night.
“It is every pitcher’s dream to be out there for nine innings and throw a no-hitter,” Jimenez said.
Firing fastballs that reached 98 mph into the ninth inning, Jimenez pitched the first no-hitter since White Sox ace Mark Buehrle tossed a perfect game in a 5-0 victory over Tampa Bay on July 23, 2009.
The San Diego Padres, New York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays are the remaining teams without a no-hitter.
After walking the leadoff batter in the fifth inning – his sixth walk – Jimenez began working exclusively out of the stretch.
“In the fifth inning Bob Apodaca, he just came to me and was like ‘You’ve been throwing good from the stretch, why don’t you just give it a try?’ ” Jimenez said of his pitching coach’s advice.
He retired the next 15 batters to end it, but the biggest assist he received was from Fowler, his center fielder.
With no outs in the seventh inning, Fowler made a diving catch in left-center on Troy Glaus’ sinking line drive, the Braves’ best chance for a hit.
“The way he dove, I was like unbelievable,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez (3-0) gave Fowler, an Atlanta native, a big hug.
“I appreciated that,” Fowler said.
There was no relief in the ninth, with the Braves’ 2-3-4 hitters coming to the plate.
“Oh my God, Chipper and McCann,” Jimenez said. “They’re two of the best hitters in the league. Why did it have to be those guys? Can’t they give me a break or something?”
It didn’t matter. Jimenez was not going to be denied.
Martin Prado popped out to second baseman Clint Barmes, Chipper Jones hit a fly ball to left field and Brian McCann grounded out to Barmes on Jimenez’s majors-high 128th pitch to end the game.
The 26-year-old right-hander struck out seven and had an RBI single in the fourth inning.
“That was domination,” Jones said. “Only one ball came close to falling.”
Jimenez began to establish himself as one of the majors’ top young pitchers last year, when he went 15-12 with a 3.47 ERA and a team-best 218 innings to help the Rockies win the N.L. wild card. He has a 1.29 ERA in three starts this year.
Jimenez is used to a heavy workload. He had at least 100 pitches in 29 of his 33 starts last year and finished with 3,570 total, second-most in the N.L. behind St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright (3,614).
“Probably after the seventh inning I was like, ‘Whoa, there’s only two innings left. I have a chance to do this,’ ” he said.
Randy Johnson was the last pitcher to hold the Braves hitless, when he was perfect against them in a 2-0 victory for Arizona on May 18, 2004.
Rockies 4, Braves 0
|CGnzlz lf||5||1||2||2||McLoth cf||4||0||0||0|
|Fowler cf||5||0||0||0||Prado 2b||2||0||0||0|
|Helton 1b||2||0||1||0||C.Jones 3b||3||0||0||0|
|Tlwtzk ss||3||0||0||1||McCnn c||4||0||0||0|
|Hawpe rf||4||1||3||0||Glaus 1b||2||0||0||0|
|Olivo c||4||0||0||0||YEscor ss||3||0||0||0|
|Stewart 3b||3||1||1||0||Heywrd rf||2||0||0||0|
|Barmes 2b||4||0||1||0||MeCarr lf||2||0||0||0|
|Jimenz p||4||1||1||1||Kawkm p||1||0||0||0|
DP—Colorado 1, Atlanta 1. LOB—Colorado 7, Atlanta 4. 2B—C.Gonzalez 2 (3), Barmes (4). SB—Y.Escobar (2). SF—Tulowitzki.
T—2:31. A—32,602 (49,743).