DENVER (AP) -Soft-spoken Ubaldo Jimenez doesn't really understand all the fuss over his fastball, all the attention he receives after each start.
The Colorado Rockies ace doesn't really think he's doing anything that spectacular.
Try telling that to the Washington Nationals and the rest of the league.
Jimenez was at his best yet again, throwing eight sharp innings to lift the Rockies to a 6-2 win over the Nationals on Saturday in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
``Just throwing my pitches,' Jimenez said.
All there is to it?
``Yeah,' he said.
The Nationals certainly would disagree with that simple assessment, especially after seeing him for a second time in the span of a month.
``We got some good swings at what might be the Cy Young Award winner when you look up here at the end of the year,' Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. ``He's just a great pitcher - great tempo, challenges hitters, got great off-speed stuff. That's the way he's pitched all year.'
Jimenez allowed two runs and seven hits in his seventh win of the season, tying him for the major league lead.
The hard-throwing righty's one glaring mistake was a high splitter to Adam Dunn, who crushed the pitch into the third deck at Coors Field, just the 29th time that's happened. The solo drive was the first homer off Jimenez (7-1) this season.
Even Jimenez was impressed with Dunn's hit.
``Every time he finds the ball, he's going to crush it,' Jimenez said. ``That was a bomb.'
Jimenez has been so good this season that his ERA increased after this gem. He entered with a 0.93 mark, only to see it climb to 1.12 - still the best in baseball.
``He is really, really establishing himself into becoming a very, very dominant pitcher,' Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. ``He has all the makings of not only an ace of the staff, but one of the premier pitchers in baseball.'
The Rockies needed a boost like this, especially with a rash of injuries to their starters. They'll get one back in the night game: Jason Hammel was activated after being on the disabled list since April 27 with a strained right groin.
Colorado has relied heavily on Jimenez's right arm and he's been up to the task.
``He walks out there and steadies the water,' Tracy said. ``He's been doing it since opening day.'
Jimenez's best pitch of the afternoon may have been a 97 mph heater in the eighth, when he got Dunn to fly to deep center with two out and the tying run on second.
The Rockies scored three times in the eighth to give Manuel Corpas some breathing room. Corpas worked a perfect ninth in a non-save situation.
Livan Hernandez (4-2), who also has one of the better ERAs in baseball, matched Jimenez most of the way. He allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings.
Even he was gushing about Jimenez.
``He's the best pitcher in the game,' said Hernandez, both of his losses coming against Jimenez. ``He's unbelievable. ... He pitched better than me.'
Jimenez also outdueled Hernandez last month, pitching 7 1-3 innings in a 2-0 victory in his first outing after he threw a no-hitter at Atlanta on April 17.
``I'm happy with what I'm being able to do for my team, every time they need me,' Jimenez said.
Jason Giambi and Miguel Olivo homered for Colorado, and Ian Stewart and Clint Barmes each drove in two runs.
Giambi was a late addition to the lineup after first baseman Todd Helton was scratched with an illness.
The left-handed slugger has been used primarily as a pinch hitter this season, but has never complained. He came through Saturday with his first homer of the season.
``He's had the rottenest duty that you could possibly give any player on this club,' Tracy said. ``But being the professional man he is, he's embraced it all.'
NOTES: To make room for Hammel on the roster, Colorado placed infielder Eric Young Jr. on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower right leg. ... Colorado OF Brad Hawpe had three doubles. ... Washington 3B Ryan Zimmerman finished with three hits, including an RBI single in the first.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved