06/27/09 1:58 AM ET
Atkins' three hits back strong Hammel
Designated hitter remains hot; starter goes 7 1/3 innings
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Atkins turned in his second successive three-hit game and drove in two runs in a 4-2 victory over the Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on Friday night before 20,872.
The Rockies won for the 18th time in 21 games, after losing two straight to the Angels. They did it with limited offense -- six hits from three players -- a career-high 7 1/3 innings of one-run starting pitching from Hammel (5-3), and some seat-of-the-plants bullpen work leading to Huston Street earning his 17th save against his former club.
Atkins, who lost his third-base job to Ian Stewart earlier this season but has had opportunities to serve as designated hitter in games in American League parks, had three hits in the Rockies' last game, an 11-3 loss to the Angels on Wednesday night.
In limited playing time this month (15 games), Atkins has hit .340 (16-for-47) with three home runs and eight RBIs. The rumor mill will feature his name, but he's bucking for more time from Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who has told Atkins he will remain confident in him if he remains confident.
"I'm trying to relax, have fun and make it hard for him [Tracy] to not write my name in the lineup," said Atkins, who has brought his average up to .226. "I've been successful in this league before and I'll be successful in this league again."
Hammel ran his win steak to five over seven starts. He gave up four hits, including Kurt Suzuki's two-out solo shot in the seventh, struck out five and frustrated the Athletics into nine outs in the air with weakly hit balls off the end of the bat. Hammel used his recently added two-seam sinking fastball with his four-seam pitch high in the zone, and changed speeds.
"Let's face it, it's very difficult to hit in the big leagues when you've got somebody on the mound throwing three pitches for strikes whenever he wants to," Tracy said.
Acquired from the Rays just before the season started, Hammel has taken to the consistent starts he had never received before at the big league level. In his last seven starts, he has posted a 3.70 ERA.
"It's been nice to get the opportunity to prove that I can do it, and I'm trying to cash in on it the best I can," Hammel said. "I've got no complaints."
Atkins doubled in a first-inning run and singled in another run during a three-run fourth against Athletics starter Dallas Braden (5-7).
Hammel left with one out and one on in the eighth. Randy Flores fanned Adam Kennedy but Jack Cust knocked a line drive off Flores' back to put runners at the corners. Joel Peralta walked Matt Holliday -- a former Rockies star who doubled twice -- and Jason Giambi to force in a run, but worked Suzuki to foul out and keep the score at 4-2.
Street's perfect ninth, with one strikeout, looks clean in the scorebook, but a big purple bruise on his forearm after he was hit by Ryan Sweeney's hard-hit ball said otherwise. Street picked it up and threw it to first for the second out.
Not only did Street and Flores take hard shots, but Hammel snatched Adam Kennedy's leadoff liner in the first inning out of self-preservation.
The tough night for pitchers reminded Tracy of a Spring Training drill in which rag balls were fired at pitchers at high speeds. One morning workout was devoted to a contest to see which pitcher caught the most. Seeing a pitcher smoked with a harmless rag ball brought as much cheer and laughter as seeing him catch one.
"Those sting a little bit more than those rag balls that we hit in Spring Training," Tracy said. "But I don't see too many guys getting out of the way. If you look at it tonight, it played a part in helping us to win a game."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.