DENVER -- Even after extending his career-best winning streak to six games, Jason Hammel sees better days ahead.
Hammel retired his first 12 batters and pitched effectively into the seventh inning, leading the Colorado Rockies past the San Diego Padres 4-2 on Saturday night.Carlos Gonzalez hit one of three Colorado home runs and the Rockies won their season-high sixth straight to move into second place in the NL West, a game behind the Padres."I think I'm on the cusp of doing something really special," said Hammel, who is 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA in his past nine starts. "When I start getting fatigued there in the later innings, try not to do too much, because I think that's what's happened the last few outings."The Rockies backed Hammel with three home runs against Wade LeBlanc (4-7) and won for the 10th time in 12 games.Gonzalez hit his 17th homer and fifth in nine games this month with two outs in the third. Melvin Mora led off the second with his first home run in 170 at-bats since Sept. 19 with Baltimore. And Brad Eldred, promoted from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Wednesday, followed with his first homer in the majors since April 25, 2007, with Pittsburgh. The Rockies have 11 homers in their past five games."Eldred is a big, strong guy, so if he hits one in the sweet spot it's going to go," LeBlanc said. "I thought it was a good pitch. The other two -- Gonzalez is just hot right now. There's pretty much no pitch you're going to throw that's going to get him out, it seems like. Then Mora, that was a mistake on my part. It was belt-high and he did what he was supposed to do."Hammel (7-3) has lost once in 11 starts since coming off the disabled list May 15. He allowed just one ball to be hit to the outfield through four perfect innings, but had to escape a bases-loaded jam in the fifth when he allowed two singles and a walk before Everth Cabrera lined to first and LeBlanc struck out."That was a key play for Hammel and the Rockies," Padres manager Bud Black said of Cabrera's liner. "It was a bullet right at Eldred. If that gets through, you never know how the inning comes out."The Rockies could reach the All-Star break tied for first if they complete the series sweep Sunday. Colorado has surged despite playing without injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, going 15-6 since he broke his left wrist June 17. He is expected to return in August."Tomorrow's a big day," said closer Huston Street, who worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his fifth save in five chances. "We finish strong, finish this first half on the right note, go into the break. This is the run we need to make, but we need to stay focused. It's really exciting because pretty near on the horizon you've got a Tulo coming back and everybody knows what he provides for this team. As good as we're playing right now, we can't wait to have him back."
Hammel is scheduled to start Friday at Cincinnati when the Rockies resume play after the All-Star break, followed by left-hander Jorge De La Rosa and Aaron Cook in the final two games of that series. Ubaldo Jimenez, who is 15-2 with a 2.20 ERA, is going to the All-Star game on Tuesday in Anaheim, Calif., and the ESPY Awards the following night in Los Angeles. He will make his first start of the second half July 19 at Florida, followed by left-hander Jeff Francis. ... Rockies 2B Jonathan Herrera extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a double in the fifth but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. ... Rockies CF Dexter Fowler has struck out seven times in the past two games while going 0 for 10.