- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 22, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — Livan Hernandez was impressed when he got an up-close look at Ubaldo Jimenez during a brief stint as teammates with the Colorado Rockies in 2008.

Hernandez was even more wowed by Jimenez as an opponent Thursday.

Jimenez followed up his no-hitter by tossing 7 1/3 shutout innings, Miguel Olivo and Ian Stewart hit solo homers for the first runs allowed this season by Hernandez, and Colorado beat the Washington Nationals 2-0.

“Every pitch now is a little more nasty than before,” said Hernandez, the 1997 World Series MVP. “He’s got the stuff to win 20 games every year. … He continues pitching like that, he’s going to win, maybe, the Cy Young one year.”

Jimenez sure is looking like an award winner. Overpowering at times, craftily changing speeds at others, he allowed five hits, struck out five, and got 15 of his 22 outs via grounders en route to improving to 4-0 with a 0.95 ERA — meaning he is responsible for half of Colorado’s eight victories.

In his previous start, the right-hander threw the first no-hitter in Rockies history, Saturday against Atlanta.

Asked if he was thinking about a repeat performance, Jimenez replied: “No, no. I just thought about going out and pitching deep in the game and winning the game.”

Facing a Nationals lineup missing No. 3 hitter Ryan Zimmerman (right hamstring) and No. 5 hitter Josh Willingham (day off until pinch-hitting for Hernandez in the eighth), Jimenez kept getting balls chopped into the ground. In the fifth inning, all three outs came on comebackers.

The only flyball out against Jimenez came from the game’s first batter, Nyjer Morgan. Cristian Guzman then grounded out to shortstop, before Jimenez gave up his first hit since April 11: a double to Willie Harris off the base of the wall in right-center.

Jimenez did not allow more than one hit in any inning and was done after 121 pitches.

Rockies manager Jim Tracy called Jimenez “the big guy,” and said: “He’s basically becoming who I thought he could become.”

Said Washington’s Morgan: “He’s electric. … He basically figured it out. He knows how to pitch now. He’s throwing that flame, but he’s hitting both sides of the plate, too.”

Thursday’s starters provided quite a study in contrasts — the 35-year-old Hernandez’s burly frame, offerings in the 60s (mph), and all kinds of guile and experience; the 26-year-old Jimenez’s 6-foot-4 jumble of long arms and legs, “hit me if you can” 98 mph fastballs, and seemingly unlimited potential.

“They did it in different ways,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said, “but they both got it done.”

Hernandez (2-1) gave up four hits across eight innings, but Olivo pounced on a slider in the second and Stewart golfed a low fastball in the seventh.

The Nationals said that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was only the second time in 90 years that a game pitted a starting pitcher coming off a no-hitter against a starter coming off a shutout. The other was Florida Marlins pitcher Al Leiter (no-hitter) against Chicago Cubs pitcher Jim Bullinger (two-hit shutout) on May 17, 1996. The Cubs’ manager that day was none other than Riggleman — who, by the way, said he had no particular recollection of that long-ago game.

Hernandez struck out three of the first six Colorado batters, before Olivo hit his third homer. That ended the right-hander’s Nationals-record streak of scoreless innings to start the season at 17 2-3: seven in his first start, nine in his second, and 1 2-3 on Thursday.

“Livan’s got tremendous know-how,” Tracy said. “He makes 84 (mph) seem like it’s 92.”

The Rockies now head home after a 3-4 road trip, and Sunday they will have a memorial service for team president Keli McGregor, who died this week.

McGregor, Tracy noted, “wore No. 88 in college. We scored eight runs in the third inning on Tuesday, and we’re going home with an 8-8 record.”

“We’ve experienced euphoria,” Tracy said, referring to Jimenez’s no-hitter on this trip, “and we’ve absolutely been hit in the gut as hard as we possibly could have been punched.”

NOTES: Olivo threw out Morgan trying to steal in the sixth. … Rockies OF Brad Hawpe sat out because of a tender left quadriceps muscle. … Nationals 1B Adam Dunn struck out three times. … Washington C Ivan Rodriguez had two singles, his sixth consecutive start with at least two hits, and is batting .449. … 3B Zimmerman won’t start Friday, either, Riggleman said. … Nationals RHP Jason Marquis (right elbow) is expected to be out six weeks.

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