Posts Tagged ‘Ubaldo Jimenez’

Rocky Mountain Low

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

You can be sure that the Oakland Athletics rue the day they traded outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez to the Colorado Rockies. The 24-year-old Venezuelan has forged a torrid path to the top of the NL’s list of “most promising young outfielders,” hitting above .320 for most of the season and providing badly needed stability in the Rockies’ outfield. And while Gonzalez was only 2-8 in Colorado’s double tilt against the Nats on Saturday, his ten total bases were more than worrying: every time a Nats pitcher turned around there he was, dancing off some base. So while the narrative of the Nats double loss in Colorado on Saturday may rightly focus on the Livan Hernandez-Ubaldo Jimenez pitcher’s duel in the first game and the follow-on skittish play of a young Nats infield in the second, it’s hard for Nats fans to shake the feeling that if Luis Atilano had pitched Gonzalez a little closer in the third inning of the second tilt, “CarGo” would not have lifted one of his pitches (his fourth of the year) into the seats. The Gonzalez homer in the second game set up a three run third inning that made the Nats fight from behind for the rest of the night.

The twin losses in Colorado on Saturday put a pause on the endless praise for the Nats starting rotation. The starting five of Hernandez, Stammen, Lannan, Atilano and Olsen have been better than expected (in fact, much better than expected), but other teams in other divisions are as good — and, in some cases, much better. It’s hard to take issue with Colorado’s entry into these pitching sweepstakes. While Colorado fans (and the Rockies’ front office) are critical of Jason Hammel’s 2010 showing (and his 7.71 ERA), it’s awfully difficult to criticize Hammel for what he did against the Nats on Saturday, giving up three runs over seven innings in a steady, if unspectacular, outing. If Hammel can build off of that success the Helton’s will boast a rotation of Jimenez, Cook, Chacin, Hammel and a returning Jeff Francis — once one of the best young left handers in the game. Then too, Colorado is awaiting the return of closer Huston Street (who arrived in Denver, with Gonzalez, in that trade with the White Elephants) and Jorge De La Rosa — the hero of Colorado’s second half comeback in 2009. The Friars and McCovey’s currently lead the NL West, but if Francis returns to form and Street and De La Rosa pick up where they left off, the Rockies will be there in September.

Those Are The Headlines, Now For The Details: Nats’ lefty Sean Burnett was visibly irritated last Monday after Jim Riggleman lifted him after he’d pitched to one batter in Washington’s 3-2 win in New York. The former Ahoy had pitched sparingly up to that point, apparently viewed as a lefty-on-lefty specialist. But since then, Burnett has been one of Washington’s featured relievers. On Saturday, Burnett threw two innings in relief of Atilano (his longest outing of the year) and has lowered his ERA a full point over the last seven days. You have to wonder if Burnett said something to Riggleman. Something like “Hey skipper — do you really think I’m less effective than Brian Bruney? . . .

Not only is the right field platoon of Willie Harris and Willy Taveras a thing of the past, so too is Willy Taveras. The veteran outfielder was designated for assignment on Saturday, and has to decide whether to accept the assignment or file for free agency. He said he would let the team know after talking to his family. The Harris-Taveras platoon (which ended even before it began) will be replaced by a Roger Bernadina-Mike Morse platoon, but our bet here at CFG is that that won’t last either. If Bernadina stops hitting (and, quite frankly, he probably will), the job will be given to Morse, a former Mariner and Riggleman favorite. Morse has been out since April with a left calf strain.

Jimenez Outduels Livan

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Ubaldo Jimenez and Livan Hernandez held a master class in pitching on Thursday with Jimenez coming out on top — at least in terms of the score. Supported by two solo home runs (one each from catcher Miguel Olivo and third baseman Ian Stewart), Jimenez shut down the Nationals when it counted, wracking up his fourth win of the season in an itchy-close pitchers’ duel at Nationals Park. In spite of the score, Hernandez was (arguably), the more impressive pitcher, mixing a fastball (which topped out at 87 mph), with a slider and change-up. Hernandez changed speeds so effectively that he most often fooled Colorado’s heavy hitting lineup. Jimenez, on the other hand, relied on an overpowering fastball that topped out at 97 mph — his slowest offering was Livan’s fastest. So while the Rockies won, the result of the duel between speed and finesse was clear: Livan was the more cerebral pitcher, Jimenez the rocket.

In the end, the brilliantly pitched 2-0 contest came down to this: the Rockies could hit a hanging slider (which is what  Hernandez threw to Ian Stewart), while the Nationals most often could not catch-up to the Jimenez fastball. The contrast between Hernandez and Jimenez was most marked in the first inning. Behind in the count 3-1 against Willie Harris, Jimenez attempted to play catch-up by throwing Harris his best pitch — a 97 mph fastball in the upper part of the zone. The pitch was predictable and, in most cases, would be unhittable. But Willie was ready and put the offering over the head of the centerfielder. “The guy throws a million miles an hour,” Harris said, talking about the at bat. “He has really good offspeed pitches as well. He keeps you off balance. You get in an 2-0 count, you are definitely thinking the fastball. He drops in a changeup or a slider on you. That’s what the good pitchers do now.” It was one of the few mistakes that Jimenez made.

There are enough good third basemen in the NL to stock a separate league: David Wright, Ian Stewart, Placido Polanco, the fading Chipper Jones, Aramis Ramirez, Arizona’s wiff-or-wack Mark Reynolds and, of course, “our very own” Ryan Zimmerman. Among others. Cincinnati fans would clamor that new Reds third sacker Scott Rolen should be added to the list of the elite: and they have a point. Rolen, who once crossed swords with Tony La Russa,  is leading a Cincinnati team that could be the surprise champ in the NL Central, despite their early 7-9 record. Rolen is playing like he did in 2002, when he came over to the Redbirds from the Ponies and won a Silver Slugger Award. The often hobbled Rolen is hitting .289 with four homers and Cincinnati (where arms go to die) is responding. They took two of three in Los Angeles, notching an impressive 8-5 victory yesterday against the Trolleys that was sparked by Rolen’s cannon-shot double in the bottom of the seventh. Dusty’s Baker Boys were ecstatic. This is the way that Baker and the Cincinnati front office had planned things at the start of the season.

Rolen, who has a problem with authority figures, fits well in Cincinnati — where (very often), no one seems to be in charge. The slick-leather-big-bat third baseman was a 2nd round draft pick for Philadelphia back in 1993, but took four years to get to the majors. It was worth the wait. Beginning in 1997, Rolen began a five year run that had Phillies fans comparing him with Philadelphia legend Mike Schmidt: Rolen hit 21, 31, 26, 26 and 25 dingers before being shipped (via Toronto), to St. Louis where he battled injuries and fought with the manager. St. Louis cut him loose, shipping Rolen to Toronto (which, believe it or not, actually has a baseball team) for Rolen clone Troy Glaus, who had once hit 47 home runs for the Angels. The trade seemed an even-up; Rolen and Glaus sported big bats and tweeky shoulders — Rolen had shoulder surgery in May of 2005 (after a collision at first with Dodger fill-in and former North Side Drama Queen draft pick Hee Seop Choi), while the suddenly under-performing Glaus had shoulder surgery in January of 2009.

By the end of last year, both Rolen and Glaus not only needed to get healthy, they needed a new start. Glaus got his when he signed this last off season with the Atlanta Braves, while Rolen was traded from Toronto to Cincinnati in a move that had Reds’ fans scratching their heads: the swap seemed an expensive and questionable last-gasp effort to fill a hole at third, while the Cincy front office searched for a more permanent replacement. But Rolen has been a surprise: a solid citizen in the clubhouse (that’s the surprise) and a formidable bat in Cincinnati’s fifth hole (which, frankly, is not) Rolen is now teamed with veteran Brandon Phillips and big lumber youngsters Joey Votto and Jay Bruce to provide mashers in the middle of the Cincy order. Once Bruce and Phillips get past their early season slumps (and they will), the Reds are likely to surge past the Cubs and Brewers, giving St. Louis a run for the division title. It’s too bad Rolen can’t pitch — it took Cincinnati starters sixteen games to notch their first victory, which came yesterday against Los Angeles.

Rolen would agree — Aroldis Chapman can’t arrive soon enough.

Facing The Rockies

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The Nats took two of three from the Brewers, and might have swept the series — but for the Nat’s starting pitching. Even so, trailing by ten after the first inning in their third game match-up, the Nats made a contest of it on Sunday, pressing the Brewers’ relief corps and sending Milwaukee reeling into Pittsburgh (which, considering the resurgence of the Ahoys, is not necessarily good news). The Nats might not fare so well against the Colorado Rockies, who send Aaron Cook to the mound tonight at Nationals Park to face off against Washington starter Craig Stammen.

The Rockers are one of the four elite teams of the National League — on the same level as the Phillies, McCoveys and Red Birds. There’s a reason for that: they’re just plumb full of pitching. The talent doesn’t stop with no-hitter hero Ubaldo Jimenez. Aaron Cook, Jorge De La Rosa, Jason Hammel and Greg Smith round out a solid rotation, which can only get better. If Jeff Francis successfully completes a rehab of his left shoulder, the Rockies could have the best pitching staff in the game. Indeed, there was a time when first sacker and slugger Todd Helton defined the team, but no more. The face of the Colorado franchise is now a bevy of solid starters capable of shutting down any NL team. So, just think how good they’ll be if Jeff Francis returns.

Of course that’s a huge “if.” The Rockies have been hit hard by pitching injuries: in addition to Francis (who, for a time, might have been considered one of the best starters in the game), the Rockies are missing savvy closer Huston Street (the pay-off Oakland made for giving up Matt Holliday), who is on the 15 day DL with a tweeky right shoulder. The Rockies need Street; closer-designate Franklin Morales has blown back-to-back saves, the most recent a heart-wrenching 4-3 loss at Atlanta that followed a dramatic last-inning loss to the (gulp) Mets. If the Rockies don’t have Street (and Colorado bloggers — like Purple Row — have been speculating that he might be down for more than April), they’re in trouble. But given his return, and the overpowering front-line of Ubaldo Jimenez, Aaron Cook and the emotional, if effective, Jorge De La Rosa (whose last half of ’09 was stunning), the Rockies are the team-to-beat in the NL West. And that’s true despite the out-of-body fear that most teams face when they play Tim Lincecum’s Giants.

Mets in 20 — and “The Silent Giant”

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

The New York Mets won a wild one in St. Louisa twenty inning marathon that lasted seven hours. The final line is memorable: both teams used 46 players and 19 pitchers, racking up the seventh longest game in Major League history. The Mets hold the record for playing in the longest game, a 24 inning 1-0 loss to the Astros on April 15, 1968. But the Mets were on the winning end of this one. Together, Mets and Cardinals pitchers threw a combined 652 pitches, lowering team batting averages and ERAs. For a time it looked as if the Red Birds would win, even after Cards manager Tony La Russa chose third sacker Felipe Lopez to pitch the 19th and and left fielder Joe Mather to pitch the 20th. La Russa was apparently saving his team’s arms, but it looked like the Cardinals were waving the white flag. But the game took one final turn: left-fielder-turned-reliever Joe Mather served up a sacrifice fly in the 20th to put the Mets ahead 2-1. Mike Pelfrey, normally a starter, came on to record the save — the first of his career.

The Mets 2-1 win was done by scratching and clawing, for while starter Johan Santana gave the Apples seven badly need well-pitched innings (he gave up only four hits), the Mets biggest bats remained strangely silent. David Wright, Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur were 1 for 20, and Bay looked particularly ineffective. Bay, who is hitting .222, struck out four times. The Mets-Cards tilt provided an unusual Saturday, even for a baseball fanatic. It was possible to watch Livan Hernandez pitch at Nats Park and then drive home in time to catch every pitch of the Busch Stadium death march. The game wiped out Fox’s Saturday prime time programming and pushed back by one hour the slot for the local news. It was worth it, if only to tally a semi-rare baseball anamoly — Mets relieved Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod), came on in the 19th to get the save for the Mets, but the Cards tied the score. But the Mets scored again in the top of the 20th and Jerry Manuel brought starter Mike Pelfrey in to to do what K-Rod couldn’t. When Pelfrey succeeded, sending the Mets back to their hotel for a badly needed rest, K-Rod registered a blown save — and a win.

At the same time that the Mets and Cards were marching up Golgotha, Rockies’ starter Ubaldo Jimenez, the best fastball pitcher in the majors, threw the first no hitter in Colorado franchise history. The no-hitter was unusual in this sense: Jimenez was not particularly effective until the 6th inning when, following the advice of former Mets fireballer and now Rockies’ pitching coach Bob Apodaca, he began to pitch from the stretch. “I saw [the Giants’ Tim] Lincecum last year do it,” Jimenez said after the game. “He wasn’t good from the windup, then he got from the stretch. It came to my mind. But then Apodaca came to me and I was like, ‘Of course, I’m going to try it.'” It worked. Jimenez began to put the ball down in the zone, and the walks that characterized his first five frames ceased.

Describing Jimenez as “the silent giant,” Rockies’ manager Jim Tracy was buoyed by the win and filled with praise for his starter: “In order for special things to happen, you have to have special people,” Tracy said of Jimenez. “We have a whole clubhouse full of them. But this is this man’s night tonight. In my opinion, it couldn’t happen to a better human being and a more talented human being than this guy.” The Jimenez no-no marked the third complete game of the day, an unusual occurrence in modern baseball. On Saturday, complete games were put in the books by Jimenez, Florida Marlin Ricky Nolasco — and Washington Nationals’ ace Livan Hernandez.

Nats Ending With A Whimper

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

This is apparently the way that Nats end: not with a bang, but with a whimper. With seven games left in the season, the Atlanta Braves banged out thirteen hits against five Nats’ pitchers, victimizing Garrett Mock with seven hits and six runs in five innings of work. Mock, who has said he doesn’t pay attention to things like personal wins and losses, (or defensive gaffes – or his own ERA), began Saturday’s tilt against the Chops by allowing four runs in the first inning — a pattern of early innings futility that has become the sad norm amongst Washington’s young arms. It was all Braves thereafter, as Atlanta lumbered through an 11-5 win. Mock doesn’t pay attention to personal wins and losses? It’s a good thing: he’s now 3-10. With Washington losing nine of its last 11, it’s clear that the mounting losses are having an impact in the clubhouse — even this late in the season: “I don’t like losing,” Nats’ slugger Adam Dunn said after the game. “I can’t really point a finger why we are losing. It’s very frustrating. I can’t put it into words. I hate it. I hate it. It’s not good.”

Those Are The Details, Now for the Headlines: Saturday’s marquee match-up pitted the N.L. Central’s Redbirds against the Colorado Rockies — and dominant Redbird righty Adam Wainwright against fireballer Ubaldo Jimenez. It was a must-win for the Rockies, who are looking in the rearview mirror at the Braves, who are now just 2.5 out of the Wild Card lead. Which is why the Saturday match-up was so important. Shockingly, the usually steady Ubaldo Jimenez was shaky out of the gate while (less surprisingly) Cy Young contender Adam Wainwright look untouchable. Jimenez lost his control in the first inning — giving up three runs, but the Rockies’ rallied late, tying the game at three in the fifth. It stayed that way until the 7th, when unlikely hero Jason LaRue deposited a hanging Jimenez slider in the left field seats. That’s all St. Louis needed to win: and clinch the division championship.

Is there a growing sense of panic on the rockpile? ” We’re still ahead,” Colorado manager Jim Tracy said after his team’s loss to the Cards. “We saw what the Cardinals just accomplished with their victory tonight, and if we keep going in the manner that we have the last couple of nights, I promise you that we’ll put ourselves in a very good position to maybe have a little celebration like that for ourselves.” Tracy is paid to be upbeat, but with Atlanta surging the Purple’s fans are beginning to show signs of gnawing doubt — and a feeling that the team is just not hitting (literally) on all cylinders. “There is a perception around the league that all of the Rockies get hot and cold together and that’s why they’re prone to stretches where they can’t win followed by stretches that they can’t lose,” Rox Girl at Purple Row says. “While there’s a little truth to that, those of us that follow the team closely know that there are slumps within the machine even while it’s working well, as well as hot players churning along even when it’s not.”

All Things Rockies, meanwhile, notes that some key players are slumping — including bopper Brad Hawpe, who was recently lifted for former White Elephant Jason Giambi. Hawpe isn’t the only one who’s slumping. Colorado’s fleet-footed Nyjer-like centerfielder, Dexter Fowler is hitting a forgettable .267, an average that belies his recent struggles. Fowler, whose speed is wasted if he can’t get on base, looked positively overmatched on Saturday, going 0-4. Rockies’ manager Jim Tracy finally threw in the towel, pinch hitting for Fowler in the 9th. The Fowler stand-in against Redbird reliever Ryan Franklin was part time left fielder Seth Smith — and you have to wonder why Tracy isn’t using him more. Smith was the N.L. player of the week in early September, when Smith was positively on fire: in six games he hit .542 with four home runs, five doubles and ten RBIs. He posted a .607 OBP.

The Rockies and their fans would deny there’s any sense of panic (of course) and the even-keeled Jim Tracy waves off reporters who remind him that the Braves are closing fast. But there are those niggling little signs (familiar to Mets fans) that signal doubt: complaints about the perceived unfairness of umpire calls (the normally phlegmatic Tracy questioned the strike zone on Saturday), reassurances from players that their “rhythm is coming back” (as Rockies’ catcher Yorvit Torrealba would say), and complaints among diehards that, while the Rockies are facing the class of the National League, their chief competitor is in the midst of a series against an also-ran. This is vintage whine. And disturbing evidence that the Rockies have stopped searching for ways to win — and started issuing excuses.

Nats End Skid, Tame Wallbangers

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Craig Stammen pitched 6.1 innings and the Nats rapped out ten hits — including three home runs — to take the third game of the four game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on Sunday, 8-3. Stammen was not brilliant, but in firm control of the strike zone, moving his fastball in and out against a baffled Milwaukee line-up. Stammen, who has had several good outings of late, threw 97 pitches, 60 of them for strikes. Stammen consistently moved players off the plate by throwing his fastball inside on hitters. “My No. 1 goal is to pitch six or seven innings and throw a quality start,” he said after the game. “But it was really important today to save the bullpen, give some of the guys a couple of days of rest and pitch late into the game so we could win.” Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard pitched in relief and were able to close out the game.

Craig Stammen Three

As was the case in the previous two contests, the Nats’ bats came alive, but this time the effort was in a winning cause. And the wallbangers in this case were not from Milwaukee. Home runs by Cristian Guzman (number 6), Adam Dunn (his 33rd) and Ryan Zimmerman (his 26th) paced the ballclub. The club was even able to pull off a suicide squeeze, with Nyjer Morgan laying down a perfect bunt in the second inning to score a sprinting Mike Morse. “It was one of those plays where we had to get that run in and put a little more pressure on them,” Morgan said. “We got it down and executed the play. I was trying not to show the bunt too early. It worked out in our favor.” Morse started in right field, his first major league start for the club since coming over from the Mariners.

Some People Call It A Kaiser Blade, I Call It A Sling Blade: Ronnie Belliard has been hitting the ball well lately, stroking a grand slam homer in a losing cause to the Brewers on Saturday. He’s raised his batting average by twenty points in the last week and had a key hit on Sunday. So, despite our constant criticism of Ronnnneeeeee here at CFG, we’re all happy for him. In fact, we’re so fracking ecstatic we’re wetting our pants. A young guy who can hit .300 and field his position? Who won’t get picked off first? Who won’t boot a ball at a key point in the game? Fogeddaboudit  . . . we want Ronnie. That said, don’t ya think it’s a little much when Bob Carpenter described Ronnie as “a really good hitter” during the Sunday broadcast? 

The game of the week took place after the Nats-Brewers match-up today, but before the Red Sox battled the Yankees in Boston. Out in Colorado, the Rockies faced off against the Giants in a tussle of NL West contenders vying for a wild card spot. And, at least at first, it seemed a cinch that the McCoveys would stifle the Rockies’ bats. Tim Lincecum was dominant: he pitched seven innings of three hit ball and struck out seven. He had a no hitter through five. He was overpowering. In comparison, Ubaldo Jimenez looked merely average — giving up two runs to Frisco in the top of the second. But in the seventh, Lincecum left a change-up out over the plate and Rockies’ Seth Smith put it in the seats. The Rockies went on to win the game, 4-2, saddling Lincecum (now 12-4) with the loss. Jimenez, whose win might well have put a very large post hole in the “let’s give Lincecum another Cy Young” bandwagon, is now 12-9 with a 3.36 ERA. Coors Field was filled to capacity (47,704). The Rockies are now three up on the Giants in the wild card race, and only 3.5 back of the fading Trolleys, who lost to the North Side Drama Queens. This was one hell of a game.

Would you like some Coors Light with that Whine? The announcers on FSN Rocky Mountain were going on a bit today about how “those guys out on the east coast” (I’m not kidding) are ignoring just how good the pitching is out in the west, and how good the Rockies and Giants are. Yeah, there’s a little of that. I’ve even mentioned it here in the well-read and highly influential pages of CFG. But you know, they went on and on. And on. And on. It would help, of course, if major league baseball didn’t schedule the Giants-Rockies dust-up for a mid-afternoon in August. But, really, who knew? Then too, it’s hard to see how ESPN could have guessed that, during the third week of August, the most important game being played in baseball would be between the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies. Then too, the comment is just not accurate: it’s not as if Tim Lincecum hasn’t been celebrated.  Yeah, sure. We oughta pay a little more attention to the Rockies. But ignored? Give me a break.

Our Of Thin Air

Jimenez Tames Nats

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Ubaldo

The Washington Nationals walked into a buzzsaw on Tuesday, losing the first in a three game series against the Colorado Rockies, 4-3. The buzzsaw was Rockies’ starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who pitched eight strong innings for Colorado and appeared to gain strength with each Washington batter. The 25-year-old gave up seven hits in eight innings, raising his record to 11-9 and lowering his ERA to 3.41. Jimenez, signed as an amateur free agent by the Rockies in 2001, is one of the best bargains in baseball — he throws a wicked four seam fastball from 94-97 mph, offsetting it with an effective slider (at about 83-83 mph) and off-speed change-up that tails down and in to a righthanded batter. A product of the Dominican Republic, Jimenez signed a four year $10 million contract with the Rockies in 2008;  he mixed his pitches well against the Nats on Tuesday, throwing 108 pitches, 72 for strikes. Rockies’  closer Huston Street gave up a single run in the ninth, but ended the game after getting Ryan Zimmerman to fly out to left.

For a time on Tuesday, it appeared that the Nats might be able to continue the modest three game winning streak that they had started in Cincinnati. But in the eighth inning, lefthander Sean Burnett (Washington’s second relief pitcher of the night) gave up a home run to Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez laid into the first offering from Burnett, which bounced off the back wall of the Nats’ bullpen in right field. The usually effective Burnett took the loss. While the Nats rapped out ten hits against the Rockies, Jimenez was effective in shutting down the worst threats: he struck out a modest five, but walked only one. Nyjer Morgan, meanwhile, added to his growing reputation as a one man wrecking crew at the top of the order, going three for four and adding a stolen base. Morgan is now hitting .310. Alberto Gonzalez rapped out two hits of his own, both line drives, as he battles a hitting slump that has seen him loft fly ball after fly ball. It could be that Tuesday was a break-out night for the young infielder, who scorched the ball nearly every time at bat.

Licey tigres

Jimenez might be one of the NL’s most underrated hurlers — a judgment belied by his near .500 record in each of his last three seasons. He is capable of throwing his fastball up in the zone at 97 mph. Jimenez is a veteran of the legendary Tigres del Licey Santo Domingo team that has been a MLB nursery for great Latin players who have been recruited by U.S. teams. Established in 1907, Licey has won 20 Domincan titles and been managed by some of the best baseball minds in the world (and in America), including Dodger great Tommy Lasorda, former MLB manager Buck Rogers and 1950s Milwaukee Braves all star Del Crandell. Manny Acta managed the team in 2003-2004.

Down On Half Street: There was near unanimous acclaim for the successful signing of Nats draft pick Stephen Strasburg among Nats players. “To get better, you have to sign your top picks. It’s nice to get it done. Hopefully, he will be all everyone thinks that he is,” Nats all star Ryan Zimmerman said. . . . The Nats plan to introduce Strasburg to their fans and the press at Nationals Park on Friday . . . Baseball Boston Red Sox Tonight Sunday night game will feature the Sawx against the Evil Empire in a match-up of peaking and fading teams. We are counting the days . . . no really, we are . . . but we’ll only watch if Baseball Tonight promises that analyst Steve Phillips will be the on air guy . . .

Giants’ ace Tim Lincecum was in line to take the loss Tuesday against the Reds in Cincinnati, but late-inning heroics by recently acquired former Indians bopper Ryan Garko (who drove in four runs), saved the day. The Giants beat the Reds with two runs in the 10th inning. The Reds, after dropping the last three to the Nats, are sinking like a stone . . .  The Florida Marlins are on fire. The Phish have now gone fourteen straight games with at least ten hits. The Marlins schooled the Astros on Tuesday, 6-2. The ‘Stros look done — they traded future hall of famer Ivan Rodriguez to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday for a minor leaguer and a player to be named . . .

Rockies beat reporter Thomas Harding notes that Troy Tulowitzki is hitting .324 in the clean-up spot. This is no secret: as “Tulo” goes, so go the Rockies. In Tulo’s rookie year, in 2007, they made their extraordinary run to the series. Last year, with Tulo injured, they looked like the pre-Tulowitzki Rockies of 2006, when they were fourth in the NL West at 76-86. The adage holds for in-season stats as well: earlier this year Tulowitzki couldn’t hit water falling out of a boat and the Rockies looked like a last place team. Now, no one can get him out, and the Rockies are leading the Wild Card race in the National League . . . in addition to Jimenez, the Rockies have front-line starter Aaron Cook. The Giants have the best post-season one-two punch in the NL with Lincecum and Matt Cain, but Cook-Jimenez has to be a close second. Actually, Cook-Jimenez might not be Colorado’s one-two punch. In the post-season the Rockies would almost certainly pitch Aaron Cook and Jason Marquis. If Jeff Francis returns from the DL for the 2010 season, the Rockies could have the best five-man rotation in baseball: Cook, Marquis, Jimenez, Francis and Jason Hammels . . . I swear, they would eat the NL West . . .