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06/17/10 6:56 PM ET

Rox return home to battle improved Brewers

It's a hard act to follow. When Jason Hammel takes the ball in Colorado's series opener against Milwaukee on Friday, he'll do so with the memory of Ubaldo Jimenez fresh in everyone's mind. Jimenez threw another gem to lead the Rockies to a 5-1 win on Thursday, and Hammel will be pitted against Milwaukee starter Manny Parra as he tries to continue his team's momentum.

Hammel has prospered behind Jimenez this season, pitching to a 4-1 record in six starts when he follows the staff ace. Good pitching seems to be contagious in this case, and Hammel just wants to keep things rolling along.

"Ubaldo's setting a pretty high bar, and we're all just trying to keep up," Hammel. "He's made great strides, and it really does help to have somebody at the front setting the bar, because everybody else wants to continue that good feeling."

Hammel has won three straight decisions and has pitched into the seventh inning five times in his last six outings. The right-hander allowed three earned runs or fewer in all but one of those starts, and he's managed to post a 7-4 record with a career 4.98 ERA at Coors Field. Those marks will be challenged Friday by the Brewers, who have slowly begun to find their form.

Milwaukee's rotation has posted quality starts in four of its last six games, and the team has responded. The Brewers have won two of their last three and four of their last seven series, showing signs of stirring in a competitive National League Central. The Brewers are 11-10 in their last 21 games, and Milwaukee manager Ken Macha thinks that it all comes down to one element.

"The pitching dictates what goes on. It really does," said Macha, retreating to conventional wisdom. "We've played crisp baseball, but it all comes down to getting the pitching. I really think the pitching is going to get better as we move on."

And if the pitching does get better, it will help support one of the league's most slug-heavy lineups. Milwaukee has hit a league-high 82 home runs this year, while the Rockies have allowed fewer homers (42) than any other team. Colorado also has its best-ever team ERA (3.63) through this point of the season, giving the team a key winning ingredient.

Brewers: Fielder rests his legs
Sometimes, you have to take extra measures to insure the health of your best players. The Brewers slotted Prince Fielder at designated hitter on Wednesday and had an off-day on Thursday, giving the slugger a chance to rest his legs. Fielder has played in 251 consecutive games -- the longest active streak in baseball and second-longest in franchise history.

Fielder -- who had made his previous 307 starts at first base -- went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his half-day, and the Brewers got equally creative in their search for a suitable replacement. Outfielder Jim Edmonds, an eight-time Gold Glover, started at first base Wednesday in place of Fielder, making his first start at that position since June 7, 2006.

Rockies: Olivo happy to be home
The Rockies may be thrilled to get home, but nobody will be happier than catcher Miguel Olivo, who has hit safely in 21 of his last 23 games at Coors Field. Olivo is hitting .440 (37-for-84) with six home runs and 23 RBIs during that streak. The backstop has been a totally different hitter on the road, notching a .173 batting average (14-for-81) with six RBIs this season.

Center fielder Carlos Gonzalez has shown the same kind of split, albeit one not quite as extreme. The 24-year-old is batting .327 (36-for-110) with eight home runs at home and .269 (36-for-134) with two home runs on the road.

Worth noting
Brewers reliever Todd Coffey departed for Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday and will throw a maximum of 25 pitches in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Thursday. He has not pitched since May 29 because of a bruised right thumb and could be activated from the disabled list this weekend in Denver. ... Colorado dropped two of three to the Brewers in the clubs' season-opening series in Milwaukee. ... The Rockies' only win in the series was on Opening Day, when Jimenez outdueled Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo. ... Outfielder Brad Hawpe snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a single in the fourth inning of Thursday's game.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.