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Defense lets down Hammel, Rockies

Defense lets down Hammel, Rockies

DENVER -- After the Rockies' second straight loss -- a 5-3 decision to the Astros at Coors Field in front of 22,697 on Thursday -- manager Clint Hurdle said his team needed to recover.

"You're going to get knocked down in this game," Hurdle said. "Your ability to get up and recover is what's critical, and that's where we are right now."

The Rockies finished 3-5 in their eight-game homestand and are now a season-low seven games under .500 (13-20). Despite a 10-game road trip beginning Friday against the Pirates, Hurdle thinks his team is a step away from being back on track.

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"We're seven games under right now," Hurdle said. "You got eight one-run losses, a couple of two-run losses. So you're there, but you got to take the next step."

Rockies right-hander Jason Hammel took the next step after entering the game with a 10.80 ERA at home. Hammel (0-2) gave up four runs, one earned, on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings in his fourth appearance, third start overall, at Coors Field.

Unfortunately for Hammel, his defense let him down by committing three costly errors.

"I had good stuff today," Hammel said. "Once I throw the ball, it's up the guys to make the play. We had a couple of unfortunate plays and it ended costing us."

The miscues began right from the start when third baseman Garrett Atkins threw the ball away on a leadoff bunt single by Kazuo Matsui. Michael Bourn then got on with a bunt single of his own. Lance Berkman followed that up by reaching on Atkins' fielding error. When the Rockies came to bat, they trailed, 3-0.

"Worst defensive inning of the year," Hurdle said. "No doubt about it."

Hammel said there was one positive the team could take after that ill-fated first inning.

"We made it a game," the pitcher said. "It could've gone real, real downhill after the first inning. But we battled back. You can't really ask for any more. The guys didn't quit."

With a runner on first and one out in the third inning, a fielding error by shortstop Clint Barmes -- his first error of the season -- allowed Bourn to advance to third. Bourn later scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Miguel Tejada to make it 4-0 Astros.

"It's always frustrating when you're giving the other team extra outs," Atkins said. "When they're scoring, it makes it more frustrating."

The Rockies fought back with three runs in the fourth, but it was as close they got. Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez (4-2) shut down Colorado by retiring his last 10 batters and striking out a career-high 11 in seven innings.

"[Rodriguez] was sharp," Atkins said. "He was locating the fastball down and he was throwing his changeup and curveball for strikes."

Todd Helton had two hits, including an RBI double, and is now three hits away from 2,000.

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

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