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Another no-no for prescient Olivo

Another no-no for prescient Olivo

ATLANTA -- The person in purple pinstripes who knew the most about no-hitters was certain that Ubaldo Jimenez would throw one on Saturday night.

There had never been a no-hitter in the history of the franchise, which is in its 18th year. But catcher Miguel Olivo was once on the receiving end of one, thrown by the Marlins' Anibal Sanchez in a 2-0 victory over the D-backs on Sept. 6, 2006.

For Jimenez and the Rockies, the 4-0 no-no over the Braves was the realization of a dream. For Olivo, it merely meant that his premonition, which he'd relayed to pitching coach Bob Apodaca, was correct.

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"When I got here to the clubhouse, I told the pitching coach, 'I'm going to call a no-hitter today,' " Olivo said. "It's exciting.

"He said, 'How do you know that?' I said, 'I don't know. I had a feeling.' I got out of the bed and felt good."

It wasn't as if Olivo relied on his sixth sense. He ushered Jimenez to Colorado's first no-hitter mostly by using his five fingers, with his strong right arm figuring prominently in the night.

Much of what Olivo did was logical -- put down the index finger for the fastball. He did that 69 times out of Jimenez's 128 pitches, according to the stat breakdown. A pitch that reached 100 mph on three occasions and stayed in the 96-to-99 range all night is a good pitch to call.

Olivo also called 31 changeups, which are hard to hit when Jimenez spots his fastball. Mix in 18 sliders and 10 curveballs, and it adds up to a lot of hitters guessing.

Jimenez walked six in the first five innings. But after walking the leadoff hitter in the fifth, he retired 15 straight. Part of that came from Jimenez's decision to pitch from the stretch for the rest of the game, which seemed to settle his mechanics. The other part was Olivo finding what was working and calling it.

Olivo signed a two-year, $2.5 million contact with the Rockies this winter as a free agent after leaving the Royals, but Saturday was not the first time he caught an eye-popping Jimenez performance. Olivo was behind the plate for the Dominican Republic when Jimenez set a World Baseball Classic record with 10 strikeouts in a four-inning appearance against the Netherlands in 2009.

"You have to give credit to the guy that caught [Jimenez]," manager Jim Tracy said. "He did a tremendous job of staying with him. He did a tremendous job of making him get the ball inside, and forced him to pitch in there in some situations when he needed to, either to strike some guys out, which he did, or set up the next pitch."

Olivo said a potential low moment helped.

With one out in the third and Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami (0-2) at first base, Jimenez moved after getting set and was called for a balk.

"When he made the balk, that's when he opened up and started throwing the fastball 98, 97; the curveball started breaking better, everything got better," Olivo said. "I didn't want them to call it. But after that happened, I'm glad they called it. He got excited and kept going."

Actually, Olivo provided a bailout moment. With two down and Chipper Jones batting, Olivo caught Jimenez's outside fastball and fired to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki at second to pick off Kawakami.

"Olivo picking the pitcher off at second base with two out in the bottom of the third and Chipper Jones standing at home plate, that is a huge difference-maker," Tracy said. "Chipper Jones is now leading off the bottom of the fourth, not hitting with first and second and two out and at the time a 1-0 game. Something happens there, it changes the whole evening."

Olivo, having experienced the anticipation of the no-hitter, calmly ushered Jimenez through the tense later innings.

"I just relaxed and did what I do," he said. "I went 0-for-4, and I don't even feel the pain. It's an exciting moment."

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

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