Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta (27) tags out the Rockies' Todd Helton (17) at second during the sixth inning.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
DENVER — Ubaldo Jimenez and Troy Tulowitzki were both throwing strikes.
Jimenez tossed five solid innings before leaving with a right calf cramp and Tulowitzki threw out two runners at home, helping the Colorado Rockies to a 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night.
The only thing that put a crimp in Jimenez’s solid outing was that cramp, which knocked him out of the game in the sixth. It was the result of too much baserunning.
The struggling ace had a two-run single for his first hit of the season and later walked. All that exertion on the bases left him dehydrated.
Jimenez (2-7) began feeling a little tightness in his push-off leg in the second inning, only to dismiss the discomfort. When it became more bothersome in the sixth, that’s when he spoke up. He doesn’t anticipate missing any time, saying after the game the cramp was already starting to feel a little better.
“I ran too much,” Jimenez said. “I was pitching good.”
The hard-throwing righty gave up three runs, scattered eight hits, and struck out five. By this time last year, the all-star was 13-1 with a 1.15 ERA, numbers that had him mentioned as one of the best pitchers in the game.
Jimenez has scuffled this year, and never more so than at home where he entered the contest with an 0-5 record and a 7.05 ERA.
To finally win at home felt like a burden lifted. It’s his first victory at Coors Field since Sept. 6, 2010, against Cincinnati.
“It hasn’t been easy at all, to get the first one. It’s been an adventure,” said Jimenez, whose team climbed back to .500 for the first time since May 25. “It feels really good.”
Jimenez was far from the only one tossing strikes. Tulowitzki threw out Miguel Cabrera at home in the fourth and then Jhonny Peralta two innings later.
“Those throws were big,” Jimenez said. “Tulo is capable of doing a lot of things like that. You just need to throw the ball to him and he’ll make things happen.”
Phil Coke (1-7) wrestled with his command and gave up a career-high seven walks in five innings. The lefty is still searching for his first win since April 14.
“I didn’t feel like I got beat up too bad,” Coke said. “I felt like whenever I made a pitch that I thought would be in the realm of the strike zone ... it was a 50-50 chance of being called. But at the same time I’ve got to be better than I was.
“I was erratic at times and that makes it tougher on the umpire to call strikes, strikes and balls, balls,” he said. “I just felt like I didn’t quite have the command that I’m known for.”
Chris Nelson hit a homer for a second straight night as the Rockies won their fourth straight.
Once Jimenez went out, the Rockies used four relievers to get the ball to closer Huston Street in the ninth. Street gave up a two-out RBI single to Brennan Boesch before getting Cabrera to fly out for his 20th save.
Cabrera has been no easy out at Coors Field, either, hitting .403 in the Mile High City.
“It was a slider. I didn’t hit it good,” Cabrera explained.
Trailing 4-1 in the sixth, the Tigers had a big inning brewing when Victor Martinez and Andy Dirks began with singles off Jimenez, who was then taken out. Peralta reached on an infield single to load the bases and Ryan Raburn hit a liner to the gap in right-center. But Peralta was tagged out at home by Chris Iannetta on a perfect relay throw from Tulowitzki.
“Great throw,” Iannetta said. “A great, strong throw.”
Same goes for the laser Tulowitzki threw to get Cabrera, who briefly complained before retreating to the dugout.
“I don’t think (Cabrera) thought I tagged him. I’d have to look at it to see if I got him definitively or not,” Iannetta said. “I’m pretty sure I did. The ball beat him by so much, kind of just did one of those swipe tags.”
Jimenez helped himself at the plate, dumping a 92 mph fastball from Coke into left-center for a two-out, two-run single in the second. The base hit broke an 0-for-20 slide this season. It was also Jimenez’s first multi-RBI game of his career.
“I thought Ubaldo did a nice job,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “I was concerned with what we ended up dealing with — all the baserunning he did. But we’ll take that two-run single, that’s for sure.”
Throughout his struggles this season, Jimenez has insisted his arm felt fine. He dealt with a cracked cuticle on his pitching thumb early in the year — an injury that landed him on the disabled list — but claimed there were no lingering issues.
He said his biggest obstacle has been controlling a blazing fastball that dances all around. Against Detroit, he relied heavily on his slider and split-finger to set up his fastball, which consistently hovered between 93-to-95 mph.
“I don’t think my command was that good tonight,” Jimenez said. “I was throwing strikes, but missing a lot of pitches. I got the job done.”
NOTES: Tigers C Alex Avila wasn’t in the starting lineup, but will catch Justin Verlander in the series finale Sunday. ... Despite boasting one of the best interleague marks since 2006, the Tigers fall to 1-4 this season. ... The Rockies are 6-3 on their 10-game homestand that concludes Sunday. ... Carlos Gonzalez and Ty Wigginton also drove in runs for Colorado.