THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DENVER — Ubaldo Jimenez had another dominating outing in his last start of the first half of the season. Now, he’s ready to take on the American League’s best.
Jimenez became the first pitcher in 10 years to reach 15 wins before the all-star break and the Colorado Rockies beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 Thursday to sweep the three game series.
Jimenez (15-1) is headed to the all-star game in Anaheim on Tuesday. The only question is if he gets the starting nod, but the humble Jimenez wasn’t lobbying for the gig.
"That’s not a question for me," he said. "Anyone would want to start."
Rockies managers Jim Tracy feels his ace has done enough to become the first Rockies pitcher to start the midsummer game.
"I don’t know how you can do much better than this man in this clubhouse. The only other choice you could make is the kid in Florida," said Tracy, referring to Josh Johnson.
If Thursday’s game was the final audition, Jimenez made a statement. After struggling in his past three starts, he was dominant over eight innings. He had one bad inning in each of those starts but he avoided that Thursday in becoming the first pitcher to have 15 wins at the break since Toronto’s David Wells in 2000.
Jimenez allowed one run and three hits. He struck out six and walked two.
"The way I pitched in my previous three outings I wanted to bounce back, especially in the last game before the all-star break," he said.
He handcuffed a Cardinals team that scored 16 runs and pounded out 27 hits in the first two games of the series. The Rockies used big comebacks to win both of those games, including a nine-run ninth in the series opener to pull out a 12-9 victory.
The Rockies didn’t need heroics with Jimenez on the mound. Just some early offence and a four-hit day from Jason Giambi.
"We got a couple of base hits to drive in runs and the big man took care of business from there," Tracy said.
Jimenez surrendered a one-out double to Colby Rasmus in the first inning and then retired the next 11 batters while his teammates built a lead off Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter (9-3).
The Rockies took a 2-0 lead in the first when Dexter Fowler and Jonathan Herrera led off with singles and scored on consecutive singles by Giambi and Brad Hawpe.
It was the first time in the series Colorado held the lead before the ninth inning.
Miguel Olivo made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly to score Giambi in the third.
"Carpenter kept us in the game," St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa said. "He usually does."
The Cardinals broke through in the fifth. Jon Jay led off with a double, moved to third on a ground out and scored on Brendan Ryan’s groundout to second.
Jay finished with two of the Cardinals five hits, both of them doubles.
The Rockies got the run back in the bottom of the fifth when Fowler led off with a double and scored on Giambi’s third single of the game to make it 4-1.
That was all the Rockies needed off Carpenter, who gave up nine hits, struck out three and walked two in six innings.
"I’ve got to make better pitches," Carpenter said. "Mechanically, I’m not there. I’m not where I need to be. Bottom line I have to get better."
The Cardinals threatened in the seventh when they had runners at the corners with one out but Yadier Molina grounded into a double play.
The Cardinals got a run off Huston Street in the ninth when Jay’s two-out double drove in Albert Pujols.
Street finished his third save by getting Molina to ground out to end the game.
NOTES: Giambi played in his 2,000th career game. … Jay extended his hitting streak to eight games. … Cardinals LHP Evan McLane is the second pitcher in 40 years to surrender a game-winning home run to the first major league batter he faced. McLane gave up Chris Iannetta’s ninth-inning leadoff home run Wednesday night.