Hammel nicked up in loss to D-backs

Hammel nicked up in loss to D-backs

DENVER -- Even before leaving Monday night's game with a groin strain, Jason Hammel had the Rockies feeling pain from his lack of command.

Hammel gave up an Adam La Roche three-run homer in the first inning and five total runs before exiting after three frames. The Rockies couldn't overcome the rough start, and D-backs ace Dan Haren's dominance, and lost, 5-3, at Coors Field.

The loss occurred on the first of 12 straight games within the National League West. Hammel also joined fellow starter Jorge De La Rosa (torn tendon band on his left middle finger) as being bound for the disabled list.

Hammel (0-2, 9.16 ERA) made it clear the injury did not excuse his struggles. After giving up five runs in the first two innings, he pitched well in the third inning. He felt tightening in the groin on the next-to-last pitch of the third, and suffered the injury on the final pitch.

"The bottom line is that I'm better than this," Hammel said.

A better start might have given the Rockies a chance, despite the fact Haren (3-1) held them to five hits and two runs while striking out 10 in eight innings. The Rockies scored in the ninth on Ian Stewart's two-out RBI single off Chad Qualls (fifth save) and had two on base, but Qualls fanned pinch-hitter Jason Giambi on a slider in the dirt to end it.

Of Hammel's 18 2/3 innings this season, 13 have been scoreless. The other innings, however, have seen him yield 20 runs, all but one earned.

"Tonight, we didn't execute pitches very well in the first two innings of the game, and we made a very bad two-strike choice to Adam La Roche," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "The result was five runs, and the total runs they got for the night was five runs."

Hammel retired the game's first two hitters, but waked Justin Upton, gave up a Mark Reynolds single, then didn't put a 2-2 fastball to La Roche far enough inside and saw the ball sail over the wall in right-center. Tracy said Hammel threw a good breaking ball early in the count and he would have liked to have seen Hammel and catcher Miguel Olivo go back to it on the pitch that went for the homer.

The issue, however, was no matter what choices Hammel was making, he was leaving pitches over the heart of the plate. In the third, he gave up a Chris Snyder leadoff double, a Stephen Drew RBI double and an Upton RBI single.

"I know exactly what I'm doing wrong, but for some reason I'm having a mental block right now," Hammel said. "I'm not going to panic. It's a long season.

"But I know I'm better than this. I've got to work harder on being more consistent with the fastball command. That's getting me in trouble."

D-backs manager A.J. Hinch knew his team seized an opportunity against a struggling pitcher.

"We took advantage of Hammel getting a little erratic, and that's good team offense," Hinch said.

Carlos Gonzalez led off the Rockies' first with a home run on a curveball to dead center to cut the difference to 3-1. Gonzalez has led off three times with home runs for the Rockies -- all against the D-backs, his original organization. The D-backs traded him to the Athletics for Haren after the 2007 season, and the Rockies acquired Gonzalez from the A's after '08.

But after the Rockies' third hit, a one-out Stewart single in the second, the Rockies didn't have another hit until pinch-hitter Eric Young Jr. doubled in the eighth. Gonzalez drove him home with a single.

"He was trying to play with you," Gonzalez said. "He messed with your timing."

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