"He's as hard to hit as anybody," manager Bobby Cox said of the 6-foot-4 Jimenez, who issued six walks through the first five innings and then improved his control while pitching out of the stretch for the final four.
While being no-hit for the 16th time in franchise history and the first since Randy Johnson tossed a perfect game at Turner Field on May 18, 2004, the Braves walked away from this evening knowing that their best chance to prevent this masterpiece fell into the glove of a laid-out Dexter Fowler.
"He ran a good route, stuck his glove out there and it was a [great] catch," right fielder Jason Heyward said of the diving catch that his good friend and offseason workout partner made to rob Troy Glaus in the seventh inning.
Having thrown 93 pitches through the first six innings, Jimenez began his 12-pitch seventh by watching Glaus drill that line drive to the left-center-field gap. What appeared to be destined to be a leadoff double instead was an out as the speedy Fowler sprinted from his center-field position and perfectly timed a dive that allowed him to secure the ball in the webbing of his glove.
"We got behind in the count early and weren't able to do anything about it, really," Glaus said. "Ahead in the count, we got a few walks and didn't really put too many good barrels on it."
While throwing 85 pitches through the first five innings, Jimenez issued each of his six walks, pitched around a fourth-inning balk that put Chipper Jones on third base with just one out and also managed to outhit the Braves courtesy of the RBI single he delivered in the three-run fourth inning against Kenshin Kawakami.
While Jimenez was cruising, Kawakami was struggling to keep his pitches down in the zone, and he made a couple of offensive mistakes that bothered him after the game.
The right-hander, who was charged with four earned runs and eight hits in five innings, was unable to successfully execute a sacrifice bunt in the third inning. Instead of advancing Melky Cabrera, who had drawn a leadoff walk, Kawakami found himself advancing to second base when Martin Prado drew a two-out walk. But moments later, with Jones at the plate, Kawakami was picked off second base.
"It was my boneheaded plays," Kawakami said. "Not just my rhythm, but probably the lineup's rhythm was probably off because of the way I pitched today."
Prado, who entered the game with a Major League-best .463 batting average and a 14-game hitting streak, walked in his first two plate appearances, then looked at a called third strike to begin the sixth, which is when Jimenez successfully improved his control by opting to pitch from the stretch.
"I was thinking about it. I saw [Tim] Lincecum do it when we played [the Giants]," Jimenez said. "So it actually entered my mind. When [Rockies pitching coach Bob] Apodaca suggested it, I said, 'Of course I will.' "
After issuing a fifth-inning leadoff walk to Heyward, Jimenez retired the final 15 batters he faced. Having thrown 114 pitches through the first eight innings, he came out firing in the ninth. Four of his final eight pitches registered at least 96 mph.
"He wasn't tired, believe me," Cox said. "He could have thrown 150 pitches and he would have been throwing 98 [mph]."
Jimenez, who was 1-5 with a 5.06 ERA in his previous five career starts against the Braves, ended his historic evening by easily handling the heart of the Atlanta order. Prado popped out to second base, Jones hit a weak fly to left field and McCann fouled off two 0-2 pitches before grounding out to second base.
"As the game is going on, you're not thinking, 'He could throw a no-hitter,' " McCann said. "But after my first at-bat, I knew he was going to be really, really tough tonight."