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Hammel handed tough-luck loss in finale

Hammel handed tough-luck loss

LOS ANGELES -- Rockies right-hander Jason Hammel's newfound consistency opens him up to new experiences. But some of what goes with being an effective pitcher isn't fun.

Take Wednesday afternoon for example.

Hammel dominated the Dodgers for eight innings during his first complete game, holding them to five hits while striking out five. But Rafael Furcal's RBI single on a 2-0 changeup with one out in the eighth left Hammel a 1-0 loser at Dodger Stadium in front of 40,455.

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"It's frustrating, but you've got to tip your hat," said Hammel, who had gone 5-0 in his previous seven starts. "He hit a good pitch. I did what I did. It should've been hit on the ground, but he was a lefty, he got his bat under it, lifted it and it fell in for the winning run."

The victory was the National League West-leading Dodgers' 10th in 12 games against the Rockies this season, and Wednesday's victory gave them the latest series. But no one left believing the dynamic between the teams is the same as it was in April and May.

This series consisted of three well-pitched games. The Dodgers took a 4-2, 13-inning victory in the series opener. The Rockies won, 3-0, with Jason Marquis throwing a two-hit shutout Tuesday, and Colorado bowed despite Hammel's strong work Wednesday.

Colorado leaves Los Angeles trailing the Dodgers by 8 1/2 games, but that difference comes mostly from the Rockies' record through May 27 -- their last game with former skipper Clint Hurdle at the helm. Colorado is 23-9 under new skipper Jim Tracy, and Wednesday's loss was just the fifth in the club's past 26 games. The Rockies completed their three-city road trip at 5-4, and have won 13 of their past 20 on the road.

Also, the Rockies return home Friday to play series with the two worst teams in the NL in the D-backs and Nationals. The club also plays 10 straight and 16 of its next 20 games at Coors Field. The Rockies were below .500 at home until they won eight of nine on their past homestand.

"We will not be discouraged one bit by what took place in this series," Tracy said. "We should feel very good about the fact of what took place out there, even though we didn't win the series.

"If we can build upon what we did during the course of our previous homestand with what has taken place on the road over the course of our last two trips, we're going to be in very, very good shape entering the All-Star break and beyond."

To lose 1-0, however, the hitting has to struggle as much as the pitching thrives.

Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw struck out five and gave up one hit, but he left after five innings because of his five walks. However, Ronald Belisario fanned three in two one-hit innings, Ramon Troncoso (2-0) threw a one-hit inning and Jonathan Broxton struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 19th save.

Brad Hawpe doubled with two out in the first and Ian Stewart doubled with two out in the seventh, but neither scored. With two on and two down in the seventh, Hammel drove a Belisario pitch deep to right, but Andre Ethier snared it.

Wednesday's 10 strikeouts were the fewest against Rockies hitters in the past four games. They've struck out 52 times in the past four games, but the Rox won two of those contests. Tracy isn't bent out of shape, especially over the 39 K's against tough Dodgers pitching during the series.

"The way we've been swinging the bat, I know we can do better, and I know we will do better," Tracy said. "They pitched great in this series, but so did we."

Hammel forced nine fly-ball outs in his last outing, when he went 7 1/3 innings in a 4-2 defeat of the Athletics. He stuck with that pattern again Wednesday, using his regular four-seam fastball and mixing in a two-seam sinking fastball he developed recently. The result was weak balls hit off the end of the bat.

After three grounders over the first two innings, Hammel didn't have another on the ground until Juan Castro's sacrifice bunt for the first out of the eighth -- and Hammel dove and nearly caught that one.

"It all comes down to fastball command with four-seam and two-seam, and throwing your offspeed pitches for strikes," Hammel said.

Brad Ausmus led off the eighth with a single that just cleared shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's glove. Eventually, Furcal won the game with his hitting know-how.

"Tough luck," Hammel said. "That's all you can say."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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