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Jimenez's career night silences Mets

Jimenez's career night silences Mets

DENVER -- Ubaldo Jimenez remembers watching from his home in the Dominican Republic as countryman Pedro Martinez won Cy Young Awards for the Boston Red Sox.

Jimenez saw how aggressive Martinez was when he pitched -- how he backed down from no one, how you could tell just from his face that he was going to get the next guy out.

"I want to pitch like him," Jimenez told his friends and family.

On Saturday night, with his family among the 35,637 in attendance at Coors Field, Jimenez outpitched his idol, and the Rockies beat the Mets, 7-1.

"He's been my hero since I was little, so it was awesome," Jimenez said.

Colorado is a Major League-best 12-5 since June 3, and seven games behind National League-West leading Arizona, which lost on Saturday.

Though Jimenez and Martinez share the same nationality, the two have never met; never even spoke, actually. But Martinez was quick to praise Jimenez's effort.

"It's not every day you're going to outdo a performance like that kid did on the other side," Martinez said. "I wish I could have, but it didn't happen. That kid did a [heck] of a job."

Jimenez (2-7) used his mid-90s fastball and devilish slider to baffle New York's powerful lineup. He gave up a triple to Jose Reyes to open the game and didn't surrender another hit until Damion Easley lined a pinch-hit single to left field in the eighth.

Those were the only hits Jimenez gave up in a career-high eight innings. It was his first win since April 8, a span of 13 games.

At 24, in just his first full Major League season, Jimenez could have easily quit on himself. But he never lost his confidence. He knew he wasn't pitching as badly as his record indicated, and that he wasn't receiving much help. Before Saturday, he averaged just 2.98 runs of support per start, the third lowest in the National League.

"He's got some calmness and inner strength," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's been a nice growth spurt for him to go through this and deal with this adversity the way he has. I think it's very admirable because it doesn't always happen."

Jimenez and Martinez matched each other nearly pitch for pitch through the first four innings, but Martinez (2-1) finally blinked in the fifth, when two poorly-located pitches caused him to unravel.

Garrett Atkins hit the first pitch of the fifth into the left-field stands, and Brad Hawpe blasted the very next pitch off the facing of the second deck in right field. Troy Tulowitzki doubled, and Jimenez followed by reaching on a soft grounder to short. Willy Taveras and Jeff Baker followed with RBI hits, and Matt Holliday knocked Martinez out of the game with a two-run single to center.

The Rockies scored six runs in the inning, and their seven hits were the most in a single inning this season.

"I don't know what the numbers are, but I know we haven't supported him [Jimenez] too well," Baker said. "He's pitched much better than his record, and his stuff is unbelievable."

The Rockies added a run in the seventh on Todd Helton's RBI single, and Luis Vizcaino retired three straight batters in the ninth after pitching into a bases-loaded jam.

Among all Major League players with at least 25 at-bats this season, Jimenez was the only one without a hit. On Saturday, he had two.

It was that kind of night for Jimenez, a night in which the baseball gods seemed to reward him for all the hard luck he's endured this season.

"I just kept working hard," Jimenez said. "I knew everything was OK. I just needed to put everything together."

Jeff Birnbaum is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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