Jimenez takes no-hit bid to the finish line
Amid trend of early no-no flirts, Rox ace goes the distance
Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez was simply following an early-season trend when he threw the first no-hitter of 2010 on Saturday against the Braves at Turner Field.
It's only the second week of the season but Jimenez became already the fourth pitcher to carry a no-hit bid through at least six innings this year.
But unlike Yankees ace CC Sabathia and Blue Jays starters Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero, Jimenez finished the job and became the first Rockies pitcher to throw one in franchise history.
"Probably after the seventh inning I was like, 'Whoa, there's only two innings left. I have a chance to do this,'" said Jimenez, who walked six batters and threw 128 pitches.
Jimenez, though, recorded the no-hitter with the final out coming on Brian McCann's groundout to second baseman Clint Barmes. The franchise's first no-hitter coincidentally fell on the exact date -- April 17 -- that the Nationals franchise received its first no-hitter back in 1969 when Bill Stoneman threw one for the then-Montreal Expos.
Romero was the most recent pitcher to come close to Jimenez's heroics when he no-hit the White Sox for seven innings on Tuesday before allowing a two-run home run to former teammate Alex Rios with no outs in the eighth.
It was a frustrating moment for Romero, who admitted he always imagines throwing a no-hitter before his starts.
"I always think about it," Romero said. "You're always wondering as a pitcher. I'm always like, 'What happens if tonight's the night I throw a no-hitter?'"
It simply wasn't the night for Romero, who followed up his teammate, Marcum, who was the first to come close to a no-hitter when the right-hander nearly made history on Opening Day against the Rangers, while making his first start in 18 months after missing all of last year because of Tommy John surgery on his elbow. Marcum had a no-hitter through 6 1/3 innings before Vladimir Guerrero broke up the bid with a single to right field.
Marcum was aiming to become the first pitcher to leave a team hitless on Opening Day since the Indians' Bob Feller threw a no-no against the White Sox in 1940.
"Yeah, that wasn't in the game plan," Marcum said with a laugh. "It was a fun game and something I was pretty proud of."
Sabathia was the next to flirt with a no-hitter when he held the Rays hitless for 7 2/3 innings at Tropicana Field on April 10, before Kelly Shoppach broke it up with a single to left field.
But Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the game that he would have replaced Sabathia with Dave Robertson in the ninth inning, even if Sabathia had his no-hitter intact, because he had already thrown 111 pitches.
"It makes it easy now, but we would have been fighting out there on the mound," Sabathia said, with a grin after his start. "I felt good, but I understand where he's coming from, too. It's my second start of the year, so it would have been a good discussion."
The trend of early no-hit bids had recent precedent, too. Pitchers flirted with no-hitters on four consecutive days in April 2009, starting with A's right-hander Trevor Cahill, who was followed by Cubs left-hander Ted Lilly, Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett and Red Sox right-hander Tim Wakefield.
Until Jimenez, however, there hadn't been an April no-hitter since 2007. White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle was the previous one to do it when he allowed just one walk against the Rangers on April 18, 2007.
But based on this year's early-season trend, it wasn't too big a surprise to see history made in April once again.
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.