Hammel’s Two-Month Rise Began Against Phillies

October 9, 2009 | 6:36 pm | 5  

The last time the Phillies saw Rockies pitcher Jason Hammel he was rebounding from an atrocious start and, it turned out, beginning a two-month push to the postseason.

He took the mound Aug. 4 at Citizens Bank Park, pitched into the seventh and won 8-3. Hammel, who will make his postseason debut and start Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Saturday at Coors Field, weather permitting, was coming off a July 30 pounding in New York, yielding seven hits and five runs in 1 1/3 innings.

After that outing against the Mets, Hammel went 5-2 with a 3.87 ERA in 12 starts plus a relief appearance of two innings on the final day of the regular season. In those 13 games, Hammel had 62 strikeouts and 17 walks in 74 1/3 innings, a rise he attributes in large part to scrapping his two-seam or sinking fastball.

“Basically at the beginning of the season, I was just throwing it down the middle and letting it react,” said Hammel, who went 10-8 with a 4.33 ERA in the regular season. “And I really didn’t have too much confidence in it. I was just throwing it, because it was working.”

After encountering trouble in mid-season _ a three-inning start against Atlanta on July 12 and that disaster against the Mets _ Hammel went back to his four-seam fastball, a more accurate pitch.

“It’s so important to get ahead of hitters,” he said. “When you’re using something that you don’t know you’re going to get ahead, it’s going to be a different ballgame.”
Hammel also attributes his success in the second half of the season to being able to throw his curveball for strikes, something he didn’t do consistently in 2008 while primarily pitching in relief with Tampa Bay.

Seeking a fifth starter, the Rockies acquired Hammel on April 5, one day before the start of the regular season, giving up a minor league pitcher. Both Hammel and Jeff Niemann were out of options, and the Rays decided to keep Niemann.

Hammel began the season in the bullpen _ his Rockies debut came April 11 against the Phillies at Coors Field _ and after three relief appearances, joined the rotation April 27. His task Saturday could be complicated by bitter cold, even snowy conditions, which doesn’t faze Hammel. He said he pitched when it was snowing while at Treasure Valley (Ore.) Community College and welcomes the adverse weather.

“I enjoy pitching in the cold,” Hammel said. “It doesn’t bother me. Humidity hurts me, because I sweat like a pig. But honestly, I’m excited to get out there. Whatever the weather is, I’m not going to think too much about it. I’ve got hitters to attack.”

What a relief _ In the first two games, the Rockies relievers have worked seven innings, allowing one run on Jayson Werth’s homer in Game 2 off Rafael Betancourt. The relief corps has changed radically from the start of the season with closer Huston Street the only current Rockies reliever in their bullpen on Opening Day. And Street began the season in a set-up role.
The Rockies acquired Betancourt and left-hander Joe Beimel near the trade deadline. Left-hander Franklin Morales is a converted starter. Matt Daley and Matt Belisle began the season at Triple-A with the latter not a factor with the Rockies until September and Jose Contreras was acquired in an Aug. 31 trade.
“It’s the reason we’re here,” manager Jim Tracy said. “And what I mean by being here is the postseason. They have done a tremendous job. We have reliability in our bullpen. We’ve got people down there that can get outs, and they can get big outs.”

Totally unknown _ Daley, an undrafted player out of Bucknell, which is in Lewisburg, Pa., went 1-1 with a 4.04 ERA in 57 games for the Rockies as a rookie this season and made his postseason debut in Game 1 with one scoreless inning. The night before Game 1, Daley and his girlfriend went to dinner at the Continental Restaurant in Philadelphia with Blaise Fletcher, a friend from Bucknell who lives in Philadelphia, and Fletcher’s wife. No one in the restaurant recognized Daley.
“That’s the good part about being a middle reliever,” he said. “Nobody knows who you are.”

Bad timing _ Leading off the eighth inning of Game 2, Troy Tulowitzki was hit just above the left elbow with an 0-1 pitch thrown by Brett Myers and the Rockies ahead 5-3. On April 11 at Coors Field, Tulowitzki hit a long two-run homer to center field off Myers. Tracy said there was no need to remind any of his pitchers that the NLDS wasn’t the time for payback.
“That environment was intense enough,” Tracy said, “to not get into wondering or thinking, ‘Was that an intentional thing? Are we going to retaliate? Are we going to do this, do that?’ “
To engage in such thinking, Tracy said, “completely distorts the focus on what you’re trying to do.”

Painful moment _ The Rockies were flying back to Denver and watched the end of the NLDS game Thursday between St. Louis and Los Angeles in stunned disbelief. That’s because Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday, who spent the previous five years with the Rockies, misplayed a line drive hit right at him with two out in the bottom of the ninth. The error led to a two-run, game-winning rally,
“I feel bad because we know what he can do,” catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. “We know he’s better than that. Obviously, something went wrong. It never even hit his glove. If you’re in the big leagues, you know how to catch a ball. Obviously, something was wrong.”

5 Comments »

  • robba | October 9, 2009 | 8:45 pm

    Just finished watching MN and the left field umpire blow the game to the Yankees. Guys, I umpired for 30 years, everything from Little League through small college ball. And I missed my share of calls. But I don’t think I ever missed a fair-foul call right in front of me like that umpire did. Absolutely unforgivable.

    And Ron G. It’s called a squeeze play. Use it.

  • Bill | October 9, 2009 | 9:07 pm

    Gotta add this comment to Robba. Yeah the umpire blew the call. And the umpiring has been terrible in the playoffs. But the Twins can’t blame the umps. They left 17 men on base during the game. They had the bases loaded and no one out and they didn’t score. They can only blame themselves.

  • N Wagner | October 9, 2009 | 10:11 pm

    I agree Bill. I was rooting for the Twins until I watched that game. They just don’t play solid baseball. I thought they were supposed to be a small ball team but they failed miserably at hitting behind runners, moving people over and getting the runners in scoring position in. I like to see good baseball in the playoffs and the Twins just haven’t delivered so far. The Yankees surprisingly have.

  • Al | October 9, 2009 | 10:56 pm

    I agree that the Twins did themselves no favors, but you gotta wonder–Mauer and the next two batters singled to load the bases.

    If Mauer gets to second as he was supposed to in his at bat, the two singles that followed him would have landed him at third and then home. In other words. Texiera only ties the game. You can’t assume the inning shakes out the same way, but given what followed, it’s enough to say the blown call affected the game.

  • Agbayani | October 10, 2009 | 12:17 am

    It was a horrible blown call. That’s why the playoffs have the 2 extra umps down the foul lines. He was right there — I can’t see how he missed it. And yes, it probably did make the difference.