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There is no doubt that the 2010 season for the Colorado Rockies has belonged to one man: Ubaldo Jimenez.
Quietly living in the long shadow cast by Jimenez is Jason Hammel.
On Friday night, at Coors Field, Hammel shutdown the Brewers, winning 2-0. Hammel pitched seven-and-one-third shutout innings, increasing his current scoreless streak to 25-and-one-third innings. That streak, which will be far less heralded than the streaks of Jimenez, is the second longest streak in Rockies history.
Without Jimenez's domination, Hammel would own the longest scoreless streak in club history by five-and-one-third innings.
Hammel, for all intents and purposes, came out of nowhere. The Rockies grabbed him at the end of spring training in 2009, when he lost out on the fifth starter battle in Tampa Bay. All Hammel did was break into the Rockies rotation and win 10 games for the club.
With the lackluster offense continuing for the Rockies, Hammel has figured out a way to win without offensive support. That method is to simply not let the other team score. Easier said than done, but for Hammel, he is making it look easy.
If what Hammel was doing on the mound wasn't enough, the tall righty showed that he can help his own cause at the plate as well. In the second inning, with Ian Stewart at third base, Hammel squared to bunt and laid down a great bunt on a tough pitch that was essentially thrown right at him. The bunt was successful, allowing Stewart to score on the suicide squeeze and giving Hammel a 2-0 cushion that would prove to be enough.
Hammel's performance on Friday came on the heels of the worst news the Rockies have received on the field so far in the season: Troy Tulowitzki will be out for at least six weeks with a broken wrist bone. Upon hearing this the Rockies could easily have packed it in and started looking forward to a better start in 2011.
Instead, Hammel gave the Rockies a lift that showed that they can win close games with or without their on-field leader.
In a season full of disappointments on the field, specifically injuries to Jorge De La Rosa and Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies have had several highlights that have already made it a memorable season. It goes without saying that Ubaldo Jimenez's name is on the top of the list of highlights, starting with his no hitter on April 18. But there has also been Hammel's emergence, along with Carlos Gonzalez proving that his 2009 postseason was no fluke.
The pitching staff as a whole has been a huge feather in the cap of the Rockies 2010 season. After Hammel and the bullpen completed the shutout of the Brewers on Friday, the team has now been on the winning end of nine shutouts so far. The reason that is significant is because that is a new club record. Setting new club records for a season, while still in June, is always a good thing.
The Rockies must find a way to overcome the Tulowitzki injury. The fact is, with Clint Barmes sliding over to shortstop and Jonathan Herrera and Chris Nelson manning second base until Tulowitzki returns, the Rockies defense is still very strong. Losing Tulowitzki on offense undoubtedly takes a toll on the club, but the fact that the offense has sputtered so much in 2010 would suggest that even with Tulo out of the lineup, the Rockies should be no worse off than they already are.
Performances like Jason Hammel's on Friday, and since he returned from the disabled list, will go a long way for keeping the Rockies within striking distance when the time comes for Tulowitzki to return.