Rockies turn to Hammel in clash with Astros

Right-hander Jason Hammel returns to the starting rotation with a chance to end a skid tonight when the Colorado Rockies visit Minute Maid Park for the third of four consecutive games with the Houston Astros.

The hosts pushed the Rockies' losing skid to nine in Friday's second game of the series, when Carlos Lee finished with two hits and drove in four runs for a second game in a row in an 11-2 decision.

Angel Sanchez knocked in two runs and scored three times for the Astros, who have won four of their last six. Matt Downs added two RBI, Clint Barmes homered and J.B. Shuck went 3-for-4 with a triple and scored three runs.

Brett Myers (7-13) worked six innings, scattering four hits and one run with a walk and six strikeouts.

"I'm just trying to keep the ball down. Earlier in the year the ball was elevated a lot," Myers said. "That's usually when I get hurt."

Chris Nelson homered for the Rockies, who haven't won since Sept. 14 at Milwaukee.

Drew Pomeranz (1-1) recorded just six outs, and took the loss after giving up seven hits and six runs. He did manage to record his first major-league hit with a second-inning single.

"He just didn't have it," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "The ball was flat."

Hammel tossed two innings of scoreless, one-hit relief against the Astros on Aug. 24 in Denver, getting a no-decision in Colorado's 7-6 win.

He's relieved four times and started once since, going 0-1 with the third save of his career that was picked up with four innings out of the bullpen in a 4-1 defeat of Cincinnati on Sept. 18.

His most recent start came Sept. 6 against Arizona, as he pitched seven innings and allowed an earned run on six hits in Colorado's 8-3 defeat of the Diamondbacks.

Hammel is 2-1 lifetime against Houston and has allowed just three earned runs in 21 2/3 innings.

He's countered by lefty J.A. Happ, who's won two straight decisions over four starts since plummeting to 11 games under .500.

Happ was on the short end of a 2-1 verdict in San Francisco to fall to 4-15 on the season on Aug. 26, but has beaten Pittsburgh and Philadelphia since in the midst of a four-start resurgence in which he's allowed seven runs in 24 innings.

He's pitched at least five innings in five straight outings, in which the Astros are 3-2.

Happ is 1-0 in three career meetings with the Rockies.

The Rockies swept a three-game set at home over the Astros from Aug. 22-24, but Houston has won seven of the past nine as the host in this series.