DENVER — When Colorado Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday spotted manager Clint Hurdle walking out to the mound in the first inning, he figured struggling Ubaldo Jimenez was about to get an angry earful.
So did Jimenez.
"When he came out, I was like, ‘Uh-oh,"’ recounted the right-hander, who settled down and led the Rockies past the Atlanta Braves 4-3 Tuesday night after Hurdle’s admonition to pitch with confidence in order to harness his control.
"It was a perfect message," said catcher Yorvit Torrealba, although he acknowledged he was surprised it came not from pitching coach Bob Apodaca but the big man himself.
"The only thing I know about pitching is it’s hard to hit," Hurdle said. "But I do know about rhythm and tempo. I asked him if he knew what momentum was. I asked Torrealba to make sure he understood momentum because we weren’t getting any. And I wanted some."
Jimenez, who speaks good English, understood exactly what Hurdle was asking him to do: slow down, take a deep breath and pitch with the certainty that a 98 mph fastball should certainly engender.
"When the manager is coming out, you are in trouble, so you’d better do something about it," said Jimenez (1-1), who allowed six hits and three runs in a six-inning outing that was both brilliant and baffling.
He walked four batters, including pitcher Jair Jurrjens twice, and three times issued four-pitch walks. He allowed only one run until Mark Kotsay’s two-run homer cut Colorado’s lead to 4-3.
Jimenez struggled through a 22-pitch first inning, allowing Chipper Jones’ RBI single and two four-pitch walks before settling down right after Hurdle’s visit.
"He was yelling at him. That’s why Clint goes out there," Holliday surmised.
"No, no," Torrealba said. "I think it was perfect. He went there and let Jimenez know he has to pitch with confidence. Sometimes young guys don’t feel like they’ve got good stuff. Especially, him.
"He wasn’t even feeling that he was throwing that hard in the first inning — he was throwing 98! So, he just basically slowed down, started to get that feeling, that was the difference."
Jimenez retired 11 of the next 13 batters he faced with the only blemishes coming with walks to Jurrjens.
"Besides walking the pitcher — that was a ridiculous walk — I feel good," Jimenez said.
Jimenez’s wildness actually helped him, suggested Kotsay.
"He’s an erratic, but effective pitcher," Kotsay said. "He’s not in the zone enough to where you can really lock in. When he had to make a pitch tonight, he made them."
Jurrjens (1-1) gave up four earned runs and nine hits over seven innings.
"I gave up some bloopers. I didn’t get hit hard. It’s a tough park to pitch in," Jurrjens said. "The bloopers I can’t do anything about them. There were others that found holes. I did as well as I could."
Colorado tied it in the bottom of the first when Todd Helton doubled and scored on Holliday’s single, and the Rockies went ahead 3-1 in the fourth when Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe hit back-to-back run-scoring doubles.
Holliday’s dribbler to right made it 4-1 in the fifth. Holliday, the reigning NL batting champion who started the night with a .192 batting average, added a double in the eighth. He finished 3-for-4 and raise his average to .267.
In the sixth, Kotsay hit an 0-1 pitch into the right field seats for his first homer of the season.
"That was the only ball we hit good after the first inning," lamented Braves manager Bobby Cox.
Kotsay struck out looking against Brian Fuentes to end the eighth with a runner on third, and Manny Corpas struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth, picking up his third save in four chances.
Each of the Rockies’ three wins have been by a run, and each of the Braves’ five losses so far have come by one run.
"We’ve been in every game," Cox said. "It means we’re a good club. We don’t have much luck with the bats right now."Notes: The game lasted 2:24, one night after a 2:05 game that was the shortest in Coors Field history. ... OF Jordan Schafer, the top prospect in the Braves’ farm system, was suspended for 50 games by the baseball commissioner’s office, which said he used human growth hormone in violation of the sport’s minor league drug program.