Braves compare Jimenez to Johnson
Last time Atlanta held hitless was Unit's perfect game
ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones was certainly willing to tip his cap to Ubaldo Jimenez after the Rockies right-hander tossed a no-hitter for Saturday night's 4-0 win over the Braves.
But the third baseman couldn't draw many parallels between this masterpiece and the perfect one that Randy Johnson completed on this same mound six years earlier.
"It's a lot different," Jones said. "[Jimenez] was effectively wild. Randy Johnson could have stood out there for 27 innings and I don't think any of us would have put him in play. He was as near untouchable as anybody I've ever seen."
For the first time since Johnson tossed his perfect game on May 18, 2004, the Braves were forced to face the fact that they had gone through an entire game without a hit.
"For me not to even foul a ball off in three at-bats against Randy, that was dominant," Jones said. "Tonight was just location. To be honest with you, really, only one ball came close to falling in. It wasn't like we hit all that much hard, but we did put it in play."
The closest thing the Braves had to a hit fell into the glove of a diving Dexter Fowler, the Rockies center fielder, who raced to the gap in left-center and robbed Troy Glaus of what had the makings to be a seventh-inning leadoff double.
Moments later, the speedy Fowler, who attended Milton High School in nearby Alpharetta, raced in and prevented Yunel Escobar from looping a single into shallow center.
"After my first at-bat, I knew it was going to be one of those nights," said catcher Brian McCann, who ended the game with a groundout to second baseman Clint Barmes. "[Jimenez's] stuff was that good."
After Jimenez completed his warmup in the bullpen, catcher Miguel Olivo told pitching coach Bob Apodaca that Jimenez was going to throw a no-hitter.
Though Jimenez certainly had the stuff to do something special, there was reason to wonder if he would have the opportunity to go the distance. The 26-year-old right-hander issued six walks through the first five innings and needed 83 pitches to complete this stretch.
"He didn't have a clue the first couple of innings," second baseman Martin Prado said. "He was just throwing the ball. Then he got back on track and started locating pitches. The third at-bat, he threw me really good pitches. I give him credit for that. I knew it was going to be a tough day for me after my first at-bat."
Effectively wild through the first five innings, Jimenez pitched from the stretch during the final four and ended up retiring the final 15 batters he faced.
"He's not a comfortable at-bat, because the next pitch could be in your ear or on the black," Jones said. "I thought, to be honest with you, we put them in play. It's not like he struck out 15 or 16 guys. We put the ball in play. We just couldn't get anything to fall."
Jimenez notched four of his seven strikeouts in the final four innings and was still popping Olivo's mitt after entering the ninth inning with his pitch count at 114.
"It's 100 mph, but it's not straight," Jones said of Jimenez's fastball. "It's coming. I can't tell you how many times he started a pitch at a left-hander's hip and brought it back over the inside corner. That's hard enough to hit when you're facing 90 [mph], much less 100. That being said, the 100 isn't what gets you out. It's the ability to change speeds and locate. He did that."
Jimenez entered the evening 1-5 with a 5.06 ERA in five career starts against the Braves. In addition, he had notched just two complete games in his young career and allowed at least four hits in each of those contests.
There was little reason to believe that this would be the night he would at least draw some comparisons with the dominance Johnson displayed in Atlanta six years ago. But he certainly gave the Braves reason to believe he's capable of experiencing this euphoric sensation again.
"He's got a chance to throw a no-hitter when he's on like that all the time," McCann said. "He's throwing out of the stretch with nobody on base and throwing 97, 98 mph with a 92-mph split-finger that he bounced. He's impressive."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.