LOS ANGELES -- The progress of Ubaldo Jimenez has been slow this season. Incremental steps have been followed by stumbles backward, but each month, the right-hander has been able nibble away at his ERA. Jimenez put it together with a solid month of July that produced a 1.74 ERA that was second lowest in the National League and five wins in six starts that topped the charts in the Majors while limiting opponents to a .201 batting average.
Perhaps his run in August could have been predicted. In his first two starts this month, Jimenez allowed 19 runs over 11 innings and lost both. So what about Tuesday night? That's right, a little bit of both. Jimenez was sharp early but struggled late and needed to hand the ball to the bullpen while the Rockies used some late-inning thunder to blow past the Dodgers for an 8-3 victory to take the first game of the series. "We had good at-bats early and capitalized on some opportunities," said Clint Hurdle, who earned his 500th career victory as manager. "Ubaldo threw a lot of pitches, but the two biggest pitches were the double-play ball to Manny [Ramirez] -- we were able to roll that up -- and the fly ball to [Russell] Martin with the bases loaded." Nursing one-run leads, Jimenez got Ramirez to bounce into a double play in the fifth, while Manny Corpas retired Martin to end a threat in the seventh. "It is great to have a bullpen like that," Jimenez said. "You want to throw more than five innings, but it is great to have them back there." The win also kept the Rockies' slim postseason hopes alive, as their deficit in the National League West remained at eight games with the Diamondbacks also winning on Tuesday. The Rockies have 11 games left with the Dodgers and D-backs this season, with six of their last nine against Arizona. Ian Stewart drove in a career-high five runs with a single in the first that got the Rockies on the board and a three-run shot in the eighth that iced the Rockies' fourth straight win and fifth in their last six games. Matt Holliday, who had four hits, also homered in the eighth, and Brad Hawpe hit a two-run homer in the third, his fourth in a week. "We have a lot to play for, and we're going to battle this thing until the end," said Stewart, who was born down the coast from Los Angeles in Long Beach. Stewart now has 32 RBIs since the All-Star break to lead all big league rookies. "Five RBIs. That is a special night, and he's not far from home," Hurdle said. "Good for him." Jimenez went through the first three months of the season and recorded two victories while dropping eight decisions. It wasn't any better for the Rockies during that stretch, as they posted a 4-13 mark in his 17 starts. On Tuesday, Jimenez faced the Dodgers for the third time this season, and after allowing a run in the first inning on Jeff Kent's ground-rule double, he settled down. Jimenez (9-11) ended up with seven strikeouts over five innings that required 97 pitches and looked in control when he retired the Dodgers in order in the third, finishing the frame by getting Ramirez with a 99-mph heater. Two quick outs in the fourth appeared to continue the roll for Jimenez, but Nomar Garciaparra dropped single into shallow right and Casey Blake doubled down the right-field line. With Hiroki Kuroda at the plate, Jimenez crossed up Yorvit Torrealba, and the Rockies catcher let it roll to the backstop for a passed ball, allowing Garciaparra to score. Kuroda walked, and Matt Kemp doubled to again pull the Dodgers within a run. Kent opened the fifth with a base hit to left that brought Ramirez to the plate, but Jimenez induced a sharp ground ball to third that Stewart backed up on to begin the double play. Jimenez allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk to pick up the win while four Rockies relievers combined to shut out the Dodgers over the final four innings. It was the fourth straight game the Rockies bullpen has not allowed a run. "The bullpen came in, and they were so efficient," Hurdle said. Stewart handed the Rockies a 2-0 lead in the first when his single to left scored Willy Taveras and Hawpe. Then Hawpe followed with his 22nd home run this season, a two-shot in the third to center off Kuroda (7-9), who took the loss. With the Rockies holding a one-run lead in the eighth, Holliday hammered his 24th home run off Jason Johnson, and after Hong-Chih Kuo walked Hawpe and Atkins, Stewart went deep to right. "Being able to come in here and play well, especially at the point of the year when we need all the wins we can get is a good feeling," Stewart said.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.