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COL@LAD: Ubaldo shuts out Dodgers, earns first win

LOS ANGELES -- Rockies ace pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez knew what was wrong with his first two months of 2011. He's heard about it and worked for weeks to correct it.

But to truly learn, one must feel enlightened. On Wednesday afternoon, he watched tape of himself fashioning the best pitching season in club history in 2010 by staying "really tall," as he put it, rather than bending and spinning and losing momentum during his unorthodox delivery. At times this year, it's seemed that tape was someone else. This time, though, he was ready to live the movie.

"I said, 'I'm going to do that today,'" Jimenez said.

On Wednesday night, Jimenez did exactly what the Rockies have expected all year, and what they sorely needed after a woebegone month. By wearing out the strike zone with his fastball and mixing pitches up when he wanted, Jimenez held the Dodgers to four hits, struck out seven and didn't let a runner make it to second base until the ninth inning as the Rockies won, 3-0, at Dodger Stadium in front of 36,975.

Jimenez (1-5) had battled nagging problems with leg muscles in Spring Training and a cut on his right thumb cuticle that flared up after the season opener and cost him two starts. He didn't contribute when the Rockies led the National League West in April, and was powerless as the Rockies slid to the Majors' worst May record, 8-21.

After going 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA last year, Jimenez entered June without a win. Unlike the second half of last year, when poor run support and occasional mistakes by others kept him with fewer than 20 wins, Jimenez was mostly culpable for his poor record through nine starts. Without a dominating Jimenez, the Rockies are incomplete.

"There are 24 other guys out in that clubhouse that realize what took place tonight, what a shot in the arm that is," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "We can't win without this guy being the performer that he was for us last year."

In the crazy NL West, currently led by a D-backs team that no one outside the Arizona desert expected much out of this year, a team can get away with taking a couple months to find its form. The Rockies, who moved back into third place, did just that in 2007, when they were an also-ran until catching fire in September and eventually finding themselves in the World Series, and 2009, when Tracy took over for Clint Hurdle in late May and the team made the playoffs.

But after losing 11-of-14 going into Wednesday and dropping the first two in a key, nine-game road trip within the division, the Rockies sensed they were running out of time to move forward.

"It's a new month, a new start for us, and I'm really excited to see Ubaldo back." Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said.

With the Dodgers swinging early in counts through the early innings, the location of Jimenez's fastball was pinpoint, and he confounded hitters by mixing occasional breaking balls. The first three of his strikeouts were called, and the most impressive of those was a curve that locked up Jamey Carroll to end the fifth.

The velocity, such a concern all season that observers were left wondering if there were nagging problems or some other injury, showed signs of returning with several 96 mph fastballs in the first inning. Jimenez ended the game with a 96 mph fastball that Matt Kemp ticked into catcher Jose Morales' mitt.

Actually, there have been positive signs. For all of the concern about his season, Wednesday was his second complete game in three outings. The other was a two-hit loss at Milwaukee.

If this resurgence is for real, the only question facing Jimenez is whether he can find the magic at home. In four road starts, he is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA and a .098 opponents' batting average. At home he is 0-4, 7.67 with a .321 opponents' average.

"Every time we come to L.A., everything moves," said Jimenez, who earned his third shutout and eighth complete game of his career. "I got my velocity back tonight."

Jimenez may love L.A., but the Dodgers didn't enjoy facing him. Kemp didn't even enjoy talking about him.

"He had a complete-game shutout," he said. "So it is what it is."

The Rockies' offense was a throwback, as well -- all the way back to April, when the team was clicking with fundamental baseball. Ty Wigginton tripled off Jon Garland (1-5), past diving center fielder Kemp, and scored on Morales' sacrifice fly. Seth Smith opened the third with a double, took third on Jonathan Herrera's sacrifice bunt and scored on Gonzalez's sac fly.

Todd Helton made it 3-0 with his seventh homer of the season, off Garland to open the fourth. While battling back pain and leg weakness last year, Helton played 118 games and managed just eight homers.

"You always want to tack on more runs, but it all worked out," Helton said. "We needed a game like that."

But the Rockies had two on and no out in the seventh, only to see it end with Dodgers first baseman James Loney's diving stop on Herrera's hard grounder. They had bases loaded with two down in the eighth, but Dexter Fowler grounded out.

Such innings have bitten the Rockies recently, but not this time.

Jimenez, who didn't walk a batter, put down the seventh on five pitches and the eighth on 11. Rafael Furcal singled to open the ninth and took second on Casey Blake's grounder, but didn't move.

It's as if the Rockies flipped the calendar forward but turned back the clock a year.

"Today is the first of June," Jimenez said. "Hopefully, everything will work out for us."

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