Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Balk this way: Jason Hammel balks Colorado Rockies to loss

Jason Hammel wound up, made the turn, pulled the ball out of his glove, and then stopped. That's right. He just stopped. Home plate Umpire Sam Holbrook then made the easiest balk call of his career.

With two outs in third inning, runners at second and third base, and Indians DH Travis Hafner down to his final strike, Hammel committed the most embarrassing moment of his career. He forgot what pitch he was throwing, and simply stopped mid-way through his pitch, allowing Cleveland to score their second run of the night.

It wouldn't have been as big of a deal, had the Rockies not used the bat of Ty Wigginton to put them within one run. However, after Wigginton homered twice in the game, he couldn't get a base hit off of Indians closer Chris Perez with Seth Smith on second base to tie the game up.

The run that Hammel allowed to score ended up being the difference. Isn't that the way it always works?

Regardless, the Rockies won another series. They won a series against a first place team, on the road. Two of those wins were one-run wins. That is a huge step in the right direction. These Rockies are taking steps forward, regardless of their difficult schedule.

Make no mistake, the road ahead does not get any easier for the Rockies. They head into New York to play the Yankees, and frankly, they didn't get the best draw when it comes to pitching matchups. On Friday night, the Rockies send Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound to face AJ Burnett. New York may have wanted to run Burnett out of town last season, but he has had a resurgence in 2011, he is currently 7-5 with a 4.05 ERA, a far better mark than the 5.26 ERA he posted a season ago. Jimenez, as anyone who follows the Rockies knows, is nowhere near the Jimenez who started the All-Star game for the National League in 2010. He has shown flashes of the old Jimenez, but his 2-7 record with a 4.68 ERA isn't anything close to what the Rockies were expecting from him.

Saturday features Aaron Cook vs. CC Sabathia. Hoping for a Rockies victory in that game, given the way Cook has looked since returning from injury, and frankly, since his appearance in the 2008 All-Star game, gives the Rockies little hope against the perennial Cy Young candidate.

Sunday will see potentially the most winnable game for the Rox. They send Juan Nicasio to the mound to face Ivan Nova of the Yankees. If Nicasio is able to pitch with the stuff that he showed in his first two starts, the Rockies offense may be able to get to Nova to get a chance for the win.

The Rockies look to win their fourth series in a row at Yankee Stadium, and may have a chance to do just that if they are able to use the short porch in right field to score runs off of the New York starters.

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