At one time, the tall right-hander was considered one of the best pitchers on the Rockies staff. He finished April with an ERA in the low threes and was looking to build on his first two successful seasons in Colorado.
Instead, he took a nose-dive. It was as if he had forgotten how to pitch. His patented 12-6 curveball didn't seem to exist, and his fastball stayed flat and in the hitting zone. Loss after loss after loss started piling up, to the point where the Rockies had started to eliminate him from their long-term plans.
On Saturday night, however, Hammel was phenomenal. He pitched 6-1/3 innings, giving up just five hits and one earned run. He struck out one and walked three, but he was effective for the Rockies, continuing to find ways to get outs. The lone run came when Lance Berkman hit what would have been a double play ball, but Mark Ellis was playing so far towards first base that the ball skipped into right center, creating a first-and-third situation in which David Freese took advantage of in the next at-bat.
The Rockies are down and out. There is no way around that. They are a bad series away from being in dead-last in the most winnable Western Division that they have ever been a part of. The Diamondbacks have taken advantage of the Rockies apathy and may parlay their success into a playoff berth.
However, with Hammel's success, the Rockies can at least feel like he is gaining some momentum back in the right direction. Instead of going the other way, Hammel is showing that he can right the ship and be a dependable member of the big league rotation.
The reality is, Hammel was probably due for an off-year. He has enjoyed success over the past two seasons in the National League. This is about the time when scouts would catch up to what he has to offer. He needs to take the next step and adjust his game to keep hitters off balance to stay competitive. He is a good enough pitcher to find a way to do that.
The Rockies take the field again on Sunday, looking for their first Sunday victory since mid-April. It is sad to think that it really has been that long, but this team just can't seem to shake that monkey off of their backs. A win would give them a series victory in St. Louis and a winning road trip, a huge morale booster in a clubhouse that seemingly could use a boost.