Young gets no-decision as Padres fall
Right-hander tosses six shutout innings at Rockies
SAN DIEGO -- Whatever you do, don't casually toss Ubaldo Jimenez's name in the mix of seemingly nameless pitchers like Anthony Reyes, Bobby Livingston and J.D. Durbin, who have each dismantled the Padres' offense since the All-Star break.
Jimenez is considered more prospect than suspect, and he surely did nothing to diminish his standing Wednesday at PETCO Park when he made quick work of Padres hitters, as the 23-year-old tossed six strong innings in the Rockies' 3-0 victory.
How fast? Well consider that Jimenez was frequently clocked at 98 mph, and once, during a third-inning strikeout of Josh Bard, hit 100 mph. That heat helped Jimenez shut out the Padres for the fifth time since the All-Star break.
A night after the Padres (64-55) scored eight runs, Jimenez (2-2) struck out a career-high nine batters and allowed only a Geoff Blum single in the first inning, as his dizzying fastball tied the Padres in knots in a different kind of way than Reyes, Livingston or Durbin ever managed recently.
"He throws hard," Padres left fielder Terrmel Sledge said. "We hit some balls hard that didn't fall. It's just one of those games you can't explain, you know. We were seeing him good, but, hey, tip our hat to him."
Jimenez's gem on Wednesday overshadowed the six shutout innings that Padres pitcher Chris Young tossed in his second start since coming off the disabled list. Young -- who missed two starts with an oblique strain -- and manager Bud Black agreed that the right-hander isn't quite back to where he was pre-injury but ...
"I think there's still some lingering effects from the oblique strain," Black said. "But he's pitchable. He's utilizing all of his pitches. He pitched a great game. ... We just didn't score any runs for him."
That's because Jimenez and three relievers combined to hold the Padres to three hits over nine innings, as the team was shut out for the seventh time this season and the fifth time at PETCO Park, where, apparently, it's not just the opposing team which has trouble scoring.
Jimenez struck out two batters in the first inning after Blum's hit, and two more during the third and fourth innings. His final pitch of the game was a 98 mph fastball to strike out Adrian Gonzalez to end the sixth inning.
"He pitched a big-time ballgame for us tonight," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was well-needed for our ballclub. It was well-needed for him. He was in a good rhythm tonight."
The same couldn't be said for the Padres' offense, which continued its dramatic variance since the All-Star break. The Padres have scored 10 or more runs three times in their 32 games since the All-Star break. Yet on five other occasions, they haven't scored a single run.
The Padres were just 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, proving just how dominant Jimenez and the three relievers who followed him were. All told, Padres hitters struck out 12 times.
Lost in the, well, loss, was Young's strong performance. He had much better command of his pitches than he did in St. Louis in his last start Thursday, when he allowed just three hits but walked five in six innings.
Young struck out the side in the first inning and added a fourth consecutive strikeout when he got Todd Helton looking at a third strike to start the second inning. He labored a bit in the second inning, when he allowed a leadoff single to Ryan Spilborghs, though the right-hander eventually got out of that runner-on-third, one-out sticky situation.
Young left after six innings and 95 pitches. He had six strikeouts and two walks and lowered his Major League-leading ERA to 1.93. More importantly, he felt like his command is starting to come around.
"I definitely was a little sharper today. My fastball command was a lot better," he said. "I still feel like I'm not quite there with my stuff. But there's no pain ... I think there's some weakness. I was talking to [Mike Cameron] about it, and he said it can take a couple of months."
The Padres will certainly take -- and, the way the National League West Division looks -- and need this version of Chris Young the rest of the way, healthy or not. The Padres' loss on Wednesday, coupled with Arizona's victory over the Marlins, put San Diego three full games back.
Young's secondary pitches were also sharp on Wednesday, especially his slider, a pitch the Rockies didn't seem geared up to hit. "I was just trying to mix pitches ... trying to use it at the appropriate time," he said.
Given Young's recent stint on the disabled list, Black thought it best to pull Young after six innings. He went to reliever Cla Meredith, who promptly allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base.
But just as quickly as Meredith got in trouble, he was nearly out of it. The sidearmer got Spilborghs on a strikeout for the first out of the inning, and then Yorvit Torrealba on a routine ground ball to second base that moved the runners up to second and third.
Meredith (4-6) then ran the count to 0-2 on pinch-hitter Ian Stewart, who was hitting for Jimenez. But Meredith's third pitch caught too much of the plate, and Stewart bounced the ball up the middle past a diving Blum to score both runs.
"The guy didn't blister it," Black said. "It got through."
All was not certainly lost, though, as Young's start was another encouraging step toward getting the All-Star back where he was before the injury.
"It's our job to put a couple runs up. We have the momentum on our side, but our offense didn't do that," Sledge said. "Like I said, when C.Y.'s out there, it's a given that he's going to come up strong every day."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.