Rockies top Brewers behind Hammel's gem

Rockies top Brewers behind Hammel's gem

DENVER -- Time and time again, Rockies manager Jim Tracy has alluded to it -- the eminent growth of his young pitching staff from year to year, start to start.

Jason Hammel is as good an example as any.

The Rockies hurler, who began the season 0-2 before being placed on the disabled list with a groin injury, has returned in stellar form.

In the Rockies' 2-0 win over the Brewers at Coors Field on Friday, Hammel extended his scoreless-innings streak to 25 1/3 frames and improved to 5-1 with a 2.04 ERA in seven outings since returning from injury.

In short, he's learned his lesson.

"With the DL time, I was able to completely get back to what I'm comfortable doing," Hammel said. "For some reason, things happen, and fluke-ish things happen and you get away from what's comfortable or try to do too much. I've just got back to being Jason Hammel."

The Rockies could get used to having that reinvigorated Hammel (5-3, 4.03) on the mound every five days. His scoreless-innings streak is tied with Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez for the second-longest such streak of a Rockies pitcher this season. Jimenez also had a streak of 33 consecutive shutout frames end this month.

Hammel was faced with a dilemma immediately in the top of the first inning, which he and Tracy agreed could have gotten to Hammel months ago. Instead, he worked out of a bases-loaded jam with one out and avoided damage from the heart of a potent Brewers lineup.

"He gets into a little bind like he did in the first inning and it only takes a moment to lose his focus and make a bad pitch, and that turns into runs," Tracy said. "But the sequence of pitches, even though he walked [Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder], was phenomenal.

"Never again the rest of the night did he ever get himself into trouble. He went unscathed from that point into the eighth inning."

And when a pitcher is as effective as Hammel has been, the two runs the Rockies offense provided -- without the services of potential All-Stars center fielder Carlos Gonzalez and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, both out with injuries -- were ample.

Colorado strung together clutch hitting in each of the first two innings -- a two-out RBI double from right fielder Brad Hawpe in the first and a squeeze bunt from Hammel in the second -- to take the early lead on Brewers starter Manny Parra (1-5, 3.91).

"It's a little different perspective watching the game on the TV," said Brewers manager Ken Macha, who was ejected in the fourth inning after arguing an out at first base. "I thought Parra pitched very well. ... He could have been helped out by the defense a little bit. He could have had all shutout innings."

Relievers Joe Beimel and Rafael Betancourt helped preserve Hammel's shutout in the eighth after Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun singled.

"That looked like Betancourt from 2009, big time," Tracy said. "As good a fastball as he's had all year, and as well located a group of fastballs as he's thrown all year."

Closer Manuel Corpas pitched a scoreless ninth for his ninth save in 11 opportunities.

The Rockies improved their record to 30-13 all-time against the Brewers at Coors Field in the pitching staff's ninth shutout of the season.

And while Jimenez has been outstanding all year, Hammel has been even better in June. After going 4-0 with a 3.41 ERA in June last year, Hammel is now 3-0 with a 0.31 ERA this month.

"If this is the guy he's becoming and who he is becoming," Tracy said, "this guy can go onward and upward very quickly."

Joey Nowak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.