Jimenez's improvements key vs. Dodgers

Jimenez's improvements key vs. Dodgers

OAKLAND -- The Rockies are 1-8 against the Natonal League West-leading Dodgers this year. But according to Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, that was then.

"Now it's something different, the way we're playing right now," Jimenez said. "We're going to compete."

The beatings at the hands of the Dodgers were part of the 18-28 start that led the Rockies to replace former manager Clint Hurdle with Jim Tracy. But the Rockies have won 20 of their last 23 ballgames. Since May 1, Jimenez is 5-4 with a 2.91 ERA in 11 starts, and he has been a big figure in the Rockies' run.

Teammates echoed Jimenez in keeping the series with the Dodgers in perspective.

Of course, the standings show that it's more than just any old series. The Rockies are a half-game behind the Giants in the NL Wild Card standings and 7 1/2 behind the Dodgers in the West. But the Rockies' current run has been full of series victories over contending teams.

"I think we've got to handle it the same way we've been doing the last month," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "They've had the better of us this year. But all we can do is go out there and play our game, and lately it's been a good game."

Torrid streaks are big news, but Tracy prefers to talk about the team's consistently sound baseball.

"What we need to do is not get over-amped, and just continue to play baseball," Tracy said. "The Dodgers are our next opponent. It's a three-game series. We're going to play them as hard and as tough as we've played the previous 29 games."

One of Jimenez's biggest areas of improvement could work in his favor against the Dodgers.

Jimenez said the Dodgers not only held ground, but lengthened their division lead -- in the absence of slugger Manny Ramirez, who won't be back from his suspension for a drug policy violation until after the Rockies leave -- by playing sound, fundamental offense.

"Even though they don't have Manny, they have guys who can get on base and steal a base," Jimenez said. "They play the little game. They play smart baseball."

Jimenez believes he is in position to combat that issue.

Consistency with men on base is one of the steps Jimenez needs to make to go from young talent to complete pitcher. This year opponents are hitting .271 against him with runners on base. That figure has improved lately.

"Everything is getting much better," Jimenez said. "I'm able to stay back better than I did before, when I was thinking about the runner so much that I rushed my delievery to home plate and my pitches were high. I think the second half of last year I got better."

Pitching matchup
COL: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (6-7, 3.83 ERA)
Jimenez pitched a solid seven innings against the Angels on Tuesday, giving up seven hits and four earned runs, yet he got the loss thanks to a timely two-run single by Bobby Abreu in the top of the eighth inning. It was the first loss of June for Jimenez, who had won three straight. Jimenez is 4-3 with a 6.84 ERA in 10 career games against the Dodgers.

LAD: LHP Randy Wolf (3-3, 3.64 ERA)
Wolf got roughed up by the White Sox last time out. In only 3 1/3 innings, he allowed five runs and three homers, along with two walks, two wild pitches and a hit batter. The Dodgers had won seven of Wolf's eight previous starts and he came into the game having allowed only one run the previous 11 innings. It was his first start of the year lasting less than five innings.

Tidbits
Rockies starter Aaron Cook gave up a leadoff single to Kurt Suzuki in the ninth inning against the A's on Sunday and knew his day was over, even though Tracy had not signaled for closer Huston Street to replace him. "I kind of overheard him talking [before the inning] that if anyone got on, he just wanted [Street] to have time to get loose, not put him in too much of a jam," Cook said. Tracy said he made his decision, so he was not going to ask Cook if he wanted to complete the game. ... Rockies right fielder Seth Smith is hitting .467 over a six-game hitting streak. ... Right fielder Brad Hawpe tied a career high by striking out four times on Sunday. ... In injury rehab action, catcher Yorvit Torrealba (playing back into shape after dealing with the kidnapping, and ultimate safe release, of his son and two other relatives in Venezuela) started at first base and went 1-for-4, and utility man Jeff Baker went 2-for-4 with a double in Triple-A Colorado Springs' 3-2, 10-inning victory at Portland on Sunday. ... Right-hander Ryan Speier (who has dealt with hamstring and shoulder issues) has thrown shutout ball in his last three outings for Colorado Springs, but the Rockies still feel he has a way to go with his health and sharpness. ... Former Rockies slugger Matt Holliday, now with the A's, went 4-for-10 (.400) with two doubles against his former club, but he didn't score or drive in a run in the three games.

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Up next
• Tuesday: Rockies (Jason Marquis, 9-5, 4.22) at Dodgers (Chad Billingsley, 9-3, 3.10), 8:10 p.m. MT
• Wednesday: Rockies (Jason Hammel, 5-3, 4.21) at Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 5-5, 3.70), 1:10 p.m. MT
• Thursday: Off-day

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