(Sports Network) - The Colorado Rockies were able to find a way to cool off the scorching Boston Red Sox in Tuesday's opener of this three-game series between the teams. With Ubaldo Jimenez set to take the mound tonight, the expected National League West contenders could have the answer once again.
Jimenez has been utterly dominant over the first 2 1/2 months of this season, with the Colorado ace having registered a 13-1 record and an incredible 1.15 earned run average over his first 14 starts. The hard-throwing right-hander is the first pitcher to win in 13 of his initial 14 outings in a season since Roger Clemens did so for the Red Sox back in 1986.
The 26-year-old has ripped off seven straight victories since enduring his lone setback of the year, a 2-0 decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 9 in which he yielded just one run and two hits over seven innings. In his most recent trip to the hill, Jimenez limited Minnesota to one run and scattered eight hits through eight frames in the Rockies' 5-1 triumph over the Twins last Thursday.
That effort marked the 10th time in Jimenez's 14 starts in which he's allowed one run or less, and opposing hitters are batting a meager .189 against him for the year. He's also been perfect at Coors Field so far this year, having posted a 5-0 record with a 1.85 ERA in five home assignments.
Jimenez has never faced the Red Sox in regular-season play, but did draw the start as a rookie in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series at Fenway Park. The native Dominican was touched for a pair of runs and issued five walks in 4 2/3 innings of Colorado's 2-1 loss to Boston, which swept the Rockies in four games of that year's Fall Classic.
The clubs had not met since that World Series prior to last night, when the Rockies got the better of the Red Sox in another pitcher's duel. Rookie Jhoulys Chacin delivered 6 2/3 shutout innings and Todd Helton had a tie- breaking RBI single in the bottom of the fifth to help Colorado take Tuesday's opener by a 2-1 count.
Helton finished 2-for-4 on the night and snapped a scoreless deadlock with a base hit off Boston starter Jon Lester that plated Chris Nelson in the fifth. The Rockies added a needed insurance run in the eighth, when Helton singled and later scored on a base hit off the bat of Ryan Spilborghs.
That would be all Chacin (4-6) would need, as the young right-hander worked around five walks and held Boston to four hits before leaving with two outs in the seventh. Reliever Matt Belisle gave up a run in the ninth, but was able to retire the final two Red Sox hitters with the tying run at first to notch his first save of the year.
"I obviously made it a little bit exciting, but if we need me to do it again, I'm ready," said Belisle afterward. "I'm glad for the opportunity, but I'm just glad we won that ball game."
The victory was the fourth in the past five games for Colorado, which sits in fourth place in the competitive NL West but is just four games behind San Diego for the division's top spot.
Boston had a season-best six-game win streak halted and fell to 1 1/2 games behind the front-running New York Yankees for first place in the American League East.
Lester (8-3) had a lengthy streak of his own come to an end after being saddled with a hard-luck defeat last night. The standout left-hander permitted just one run and fanned six over the first six innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter with Boston trailing 1-0 in the top of the seventh.
"It's National League baseball," said Lester when asked of manager Terry Francona's decision to remove him from the game. "Hopefully I never have to deal with it again. It's part of playing over here, and as a pitcher you have to get used to."
Lester had gone 8-0 over an 11-start span since being dealt an April 18 loss by Tampa Bay.
John Lackey draws the start for the Red Sox tonight and is on an impressive winning run of his own at the moment. The offseason acquisition has compiled a 4-0 record over his last five appearances and hasn't lost since a 5-1 verdict at Philadelphia on May 21. He's allowed just two runs while pitching at least 6 1/3 innings three times over that unbeaten stretch.
Lackey was reached for four runs (three earned) in six innings against Arizona this past Thursday at Fenway Park, but received plenty of offensive support in Boston's 8-5 win. That performance improved the right-hander to 14-5 with a 2.82 ERA in 28 career games (27 starts) against the NL.
The 31-year-old bested the Rockies in his only previous meeting with tonight's opponent. That took place while on June 26, 2006 when Lackey, then a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, allowed three runs on just four hits over eight sharp innings. This will be his first-ever start at Coors Field.
The Rockies did get the better of the Red Sox when these teams squared off during the 2007 regular season, taking two of three games in a series held at Fenway Park. Boston also dropped two of three against Colorado in its only non-postseason visit to Coors Field, which took place in 2004.