Blue Jays face baseball's hottest pitcher
The Toronto Blue Jays begin a stretch of 15 consecutive games against National League opponents on Friday by taking on the toughest pitcher going, Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies.
Jimenez (11-1, 0.93 ERA) will go for his second six-game winning streak already this season in the opener of a three-game set at Coors Field.
The slender right-hander carried a 26-inning scoreless streak into Sunday's start at Arizona, and extended it to 33 before giving up a two-run homer to Conor Jackson in the eighth. That wasn't enough to beat Jimenez, though, in a 3-2 Colorado victory.
"He's got to be the best baseball player in the world at this moment," right fielder Brad Hawpe told the team website. "I don't know who can argue."
Jimenez has yet to allow as many as three runs in his 12 starts, and has given up none at all in half of them.
It's easy to forgot in the stretch of perfect games thrown by Dallas Braden, Roy Halladay and Armando Gallaraga (negated by an umpire's ruling), that Jimenez started the statistically improbable trend of frequent no-hitters with his effort on April 17.
The six-foot-four-inch Dominican walked six in that outing against the Braves, the franchise's first no-hitter, but since then his command has only improved. He's walked just nine in the last five starts.
Never faced Jays
Only left-hander Dutch Leonard's 0.83 ERA through 12 starts with the Red Sox in 1914 was lower than what Jimenez has accomplished by allowing nine earned runs in 87 1/3 innings. Leonard finished with a 1.00 ERA, the lowest for a single season in the modern era.
Jimenez has never faced the Blue Jays, and he has a 2-4 record with a 4.20 ERA in six career starts against American League teams.
Toronto (34-27) salvaged a win in Tampa Bay after getting pounded by a combined 19-1 in the first two games.
Alex Gonzalez hit his 13th home run — the team's league-leading 98th — and recent pickup DeWayne Wise contributed a double while scoring the go-ahead run in a 3-2 result.
Brett Cecil won his fifth consecutive start for the Jays.
"It's a great win for us after the first two games," said Cecil, who improved to 7-2.
Wise, the longtime Chicago White Sox player, was in the lineup after John McDonald was placed on leave. The shortstop's father is battling cancer.
Designated hitter Adam Lind, meanwhile, knocked in a run and hit safely for the third straight game.
Best in interleague play
Ricky Romero (5-2) gets the call for Toronto on Friday. Romero allowed just two runs and five hits in eight innings in his last start, but Yankees counterpart Andy Pettitte was just as stingy. Neither starter figured in the decision, with the Jays eventually winning the June 5 game in extra innings.
Colorado (30-30) is an NL-best 13-5 in interleague play since the start of 2009, but enters this series having lost three straight and six of eight.
The Rockies beat Houston 5-1 on Monday in the opener of a seven-game homestand, but dropped the series' final three games after a 5-4 loss Thursday.
Veterans Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzi each had two hits for Colorado, with starter Jhoulys Chacin taking the loss.
All three previous series between the Jays and Rockies — two in Toronto and one at Denver in 2006 — resulted in home sweeps.
Brandon Morrow will pitch Saturday for the Blue Jays while the finale will feature the return of Jesse Litsch. The right-hander underwent ligament replacement surgery in June 2009.
With files from The Associated Press