Saturday, June 12, 2010

Jason Hammel dazzles Blue Jays in Rockies 1-0 victory

Jason Hammel has figured out the winning formula when the offense doesn't score many runs. That formula? Don't allow the opponents any runs.

Hammel, battling the ugly weather, looked less like a fifth starter and more like a guy who any team would love to have in the second or third spot in their rotation. The righty went eight shutout inning on Saturday. He gave up three hits and three walks while striking out six.

The tone was set after the first batter of the game, when Fred Lewis hit a double. Instead of letting things get out of control, Hammel settled in and got the next three hitters out to strand Lewis at second base.

The eight shutout innings extended Hammel's current shutout streak to 15-1/3 innings.

Hammel's last few outings have been greatly overshadowed by the well-deserved attention the ace Ubaldo Jimenez is receiving. In the past a 15-1/3 inning scoreless streak by a Rockies hitter would be one of the big highlights of a season. In 2010 it is simply a blip on the radar.

There is no getting around the fact that the Rockies offense has struggled lately. A team built to run all over the bases and has the power to trot around them as well has floundered for the first two and a half months. Every reason has been given for why the team will get hot at the plate, but the fact remains that they are struggling to score runs. Hammel has figured out the only way to win a game when the offense isn't scoring is to simply not allow the opponent to score.

Of course, keeping the opponent scoreless is easier said than done, but Hammel seems to be baffling hitters over his last three outings.

Having success from a guy like Jason Hammel will go far for the Colorado Rockies. He came into the season as the club's fifth starter, but has since moved up a slot with the injury to Jorge De La Rosa. After a few so-so months in 2009, Hammel found his touch after the All-Star break and ended up winning 10 games.

After a phenomenal spring training it looked like Hammel was going to be a huge part of the club. Instead he came into the regular season and struggled. In his first start he put up typical fifth starter numbers, giving up four runs in seven innings to the Padres. After that he got shelled in three consecutive starts, giving up a combined 15 earned runs in 11-2/3 innings. The string of poor starts ended with the revelation that Hammel was dealing with a groin strain. The injury landed him on the 15-day disabled list which may have turned his season around.

Since returning from the DL, Hammel has been phenomenal. In his return he gave up five runs in seven innings in Kansas City, but those numbers did not represent the command that he showed. He gave up two home runs to Jose Guillen, which were the only two pitches that he missed badly on.

Beyond that, Hammel has given up a Ubaldo Jimenez-like three runs in 27-1/3 innings.

The value of a guy like Hammel cannot be understated. The idea behind a fifth starter is that they will go to the mound and give their team a chance to win. It is a great outing from a guy like that when they give up three runs in six innings. Rarely does a fifth starter dominate a game. Hammel has been anything but a guy who keeps his team in games. He has been dominant, keeping hitters off balance and getting good hitters to look foolish on his curveball.

Having Jason Hammel pitching gives the Rockies a guy who can scratch out wins while the offense sputters. When the offense does return, as so many have promised that it will, Hammel will make it that much easier for the club to win ball games and get back into the race in the National League West.

For more on the Rockies visit RockiesReview.com

This article is also featured on INDenverTimes.com

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