Late rally not enough against Padres
Three-run seventh ties game, but 'pen allows two in the eighth
DENVER -- Rockies rookie pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez worked up an appetite in seven encouraging innings Tuesday night. Although the Rockies lost to the Padres, 5-3, Jimenez deserved the heaping plate of spaghetti he was carrying.
The notebooks and cameras were hungry for comments. To keep his postgame interview from looking like Food Network programming, Jimenez deftly slipped his food into the lockbox at the top of his cubicle. Dinner, delayed.
It wasn't the only time Jimenez, who pitched in front of 37,127 in his first career start at Coors Field, adjusted after learning things are different in the Majors.
He opened with 14 straight fastballs, saying, "They weren't hitting the fastball, so we wanted to continue throwing the fastball inside and outside until they showed they could hit it."
The first four resulted in two outs. But he walked Milton Bradley in five pitches. Three pitches later, Adrian Gonzalez singled. His second pitch to Mike Cameron ended up in the left-center field seats for a 3-0 deficit.
Then Jimenez began mixing pitches and gave up just two more hits, struck out five and walked two. The Rockies tied it with a three-run seventh but faltered in the eighth.
The Rockies dropped to .500 in game No. 100, but remained 5 1/2 games behind the National League West-leading Dodgers.
The Rockies, who meet the second-place Padres on Wednesday afternoon to decide the three-game series, might be gaining rotation help without trading for an expensive veteran.
In two starts -- both no-decisions -- since being promoted from Triple-A Colorado Springs, Jimenez has given up four first-inning runs but just one run in his other nine innings.
"I thought he pitched really well," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "We got some length out of him. He started mixing his curveball and changeup, and threw some very good fastballs."
Jimenez said the unlucky 14th pitch had poor location -- "right there in the middle; I tried to get outside" -- and added that many Triple-A hitters would have popped that one up. After that, he was efficient.
In his first start, Thursday night against the Nationals, he threw 106 pitched in five innings. This time, he threw 91 in seven.
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"At first I was thinking seven innings or more, so next time I'm thinking eight or nine -- step by step," he said.
Some aggressive steps ended the Rockies' rally.
Rockies pinch-hitter Ryan Spilborghs, who followed Yorvit Torrealba's RBI single with a two-run, two-out double off Heath Bell (4-2) to tie the game in the eighth, took some steps he wished he hadn't.
Willy Taveras beat out an infield single when Padres second baseman Geoff Blum bobbled the ball. But Spilborghs rounded third and had no chance when Blum threw to third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.
"It looked like a bad play, but honestly we do that all the time where we're taking aggressive turns," Spilborghs said.
Rockies reliever Ramon Ramirez (2-2) fanned Brian Giles to open the eighth, but Michael Barrett doubled and Bradley tapped a check-swing single. Gonzalez knocked an RBI double off Jeremy Affeldt and Khalil Greene added a sacrifice fly against Jorge Julio.
Trevor Hoffman earned his 28th save of the season and 510th of his career with a perfect ninth as the Padres pulled to within a game behind the Dodgers.
Padres starter Chris Young, who entered 4-0 against the Rockies in his career, threw two perfect innings before leaving with a left oblique strain. But lefty reliever Justin Hampson haunted his former team by holding the Rockies to two hits in 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.