Jimenez strong, but Rox's streak ends

Jimenez strong, but Rox's streak ends

SAN DIEGO -- Ubaldo Jimenez turned in a solid start Saturday night, but there was little else that pointed in a positive direction.

Prior to the game, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle described the right-hander's stuff as effective, powerful and dynamic when it's on and dysfunctional when it isn't.

Jimenez was mostly efficient and certainly dynamic at times, but the Rockies offense was rendered more dysfunctional than not as they turned in a 3-2 loss against the Padres and made a winner out of Greg Maddux.

That produced a milestone for Maddux, who earned his 350th career victory, while Jimenez was saddled with his third loss of the year and his first decision since April 15.

"We didn't give him a lot of support offensively," Hurdle said. "We ran into a blade on their side, a couple of them."

Jimenez has struggled at times this season, allowing four or more runs in three of his seven previous starts and not making it past the sixth inning in any of them. But on Saturday, he showed why his manager describes the right-hander in such glowing terms when he's pitching well.

Aside from a three-batter stretch in the fourth that produced two walks and a three-run homer by Adrian Gonzalez, Jimenez was sharp and fanned a career-high 11 batters.

"I thought he battled; I thought he made pitches," Hurdle said. "He had a pretty good command of his curveball, his fastball was explosive; he threw some good changeups. You go 6 2/3 innings and you give up three runs, walk three and strike out 11 ... that is not a bad night by any means. You can't turn that into a bad night."

The Rockies fell to 1-7 in games that Jimenez has started and the question has become how to match the support with the effort when he's on. In four of his starts, the Rockies have managed two or fewer runs.

Part of the problem Saturday was Maddux.

At 42 and in his 23rd year in the big leagues, the veteran right-hander still knows his way around a strike zone. The problem for Maddux has been getting past this milestone. In his last four starts, Maddux had been stuck and unable to continue his climb up the career wins list.

But he was efficient against the Rockies on Saturday, cruising through six innings on just 68 pitches, 45 for strikes. He did not walk a batter and struck out one while allowing only three hits.

The Rockies were able to string together consecutive hits in the top of the fourth, when Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins both singled with two outs, but Brad Hawpe followed with a fly ball to right to end the inning.

Willy Taveras scored a run in the top of the sixth, but the credit actually went to Maddux.

The 17-time Gold Glove Award winner had not committed an error since May 9, 2007, in Atlanta, but on Taveras' dribbler to the left side of the mound, Maddux fielded the ball, turned and fired wide of first. The ball ended up in the visitors' bullpen down the right-field line and Taveras scampered all the way to third.

On a ground ball to first, Taveras scored, but the Rockies managed only two more groundouts to end the inning and Maddux's night was done.

"He's a master craftsman; he's going to the Hall of Fame," Hurdle said. "He stayed away from the barrel, he changed speeds and he got outs."

Clint Barmes scored in the eighth on Taveras' double off Heath Bell, but the Rockies would get no closer and wasted a leadoff walk by Todd Helton in the ninth as Trevor Hoffman recorded his sixth save of the year and 530th of his career.

Doing his job for most of the night, though, was Jimenez, who made one mistake when he threw a two-seam fastball out over the plate to Gonzalez in the fourth. Possibly his bigger mistakes were the pair of walks he issued to lead off the inning as Tadahito Iguchi and Brian Giles both got aboard and scored on Gonzalez's ninth homer of the year.

"I tried to throw a strike and get a ground ball, but he hit the ball really hard," Jimenez said. "I feel good about it, but we didn't win."

On either side of the fourth inning, though, Jimenez was sharp and he didn't face more than four batters in those other frames or have more than one baserunner on at a time.

"I'm really happy I was able to keep going and get to the seventh," Jimenez said.

Hurdle said Jimenez's curve was especially sharp and he liked the way his starter recovered after the homer to finish strong.

"I was very encouraged by that," Hurdle said. "The volume of pitches that he threw, the stamina."

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.