Hammel's sharp again in Rockies' win to improve to 3-1 since DL stint

DENVER -- Jason Hammel turned in an Ubaldo Jimenez-type outing.

Well, without the blistering 98 mph fastball and minus the mowing down hitters like the Colorado Rockies ace often does.

Still, the results were pretty much same.

Hammel did his best Jimenez impersonation, throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings to lift the Rockies to a 5-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday night.

"It's tough to follow Cy Young," Hammel said.

And now Jeff Francis gets to follow Hammel on Tuesday night, a tough assignment in its own right.

Hammel's strained groin appeared to be fully mended as he turned in another solid start. He's 3-1 since returning from the disabled list on May 15.

The right-handed Hammel (3-3) scattered six hits and struck out three in his longest outing of the season.

"Jeff is like, 'How am I supposed to follow this?' " Hammel recounted. "I said, 'How am I supposed to follow [what Jimenez did]?' It's kind of a little joke going around. I think we're back to where the starting rotation was last year, where everybody is confident when we go out."

That's due, in large part, to Jimenez, who even when he's not on the mound still inspires his teammates.

Jimenez picked up his league-leading 11th win Sunday, allowing two runs in seven innings.

And that's one of his ho-hum performances, too. He's set the bar awfully high for himself.

Like Jimenez, Hammel was efficient with his pitches and kept the Astros at bay most of the game.

He was cruising along until the eighth when he issued a one-out walk to Michael Bourn and then gave up a single to Jeff Keppinger.

Joe Beimel bailed him out of trouble by getting Lance Berkman to hit into an inning-ending double play.

"Hammel threw the ball pretty well," Berkman said. "I don't think his numbers indicate at all what his talent level is. He has a great repertoire and threw what he wanted to on both sides of the plate."

Houston's Wandy Rodriguez (3-8) pitched seven effective innings in his bid to win consecutive games for the first time this season. The lefty allowed three runs and nine hits before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth.

Yet he was far from pleased with this outing.

"I lost didn't I? I wasn't happy with it because we lost the game," Rodriguez said.

His one mistake was a pitch head high to Clint Barmes, who drove it into left field for a two-run double in the second.

"Must not have been high enough because he hit it anyway," Rodriguez said.

The Rockies have come to rely on Barmes more for his glove than his bat. That's why manager Jim Tracy keeps scribbling his name into the lineup, even if he is hitting .219.

"For me, he's arguably as good a defensive second baseman as there is in the game," Tracy said.

Lofty praise, indeed.

"I appreciate that," said Barmes, who made several slick plays in the field Monday to help Hammel.

The Astros had trouble generating any sort of offense against the Rockies, only one runner even getting as far as third base until Geoff Blum's run-scoring single in the ninth.

That was partly due to the fact that Houston hit into three double plays in the game, including one in the second after the Astros started off the inning with two straight singles.

Pedro Feliz of the Astros had three hits, including one that left fielder Ryan Spilborghs lost in the lights.

Miguel Olivo added an RBI triple in the eighth and Todd Helton followed with a run-scoring sacrifice fly, just his 11th RBI of the season as the longtime Rockies first baseman has fallen into such a slump that he hit in the sixth spot in the order for a second straight game.

Game notes
Rockies LHP Jorge De La Rosa will throw breaking pitches with no protective tape on his injured left middle finger in a bullpen session Tuesday. ... Colorado RHP Huston Street (right shoulder inflammation) will pitch in consecutive games later this week and then return to Denver on Saturday to be re-evaluated. ... The Astros launched the first of a 10-game, three-city road trip Monday.