Hammel sharp as Rockies sweep Nationals

DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies had a hurler on the mound keeping hitters off balance, staying aggressive, even dominating at times.

And he wasn't even named Ubaldo Jimenez.

Jason Hammel borrowed a page from Jimenez's book by staying patient and positive as he threw seven sharp innings to lift the Rockies to a 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Saturday night for a doubleheader sweep.

Hammel (1-2), who has been sidelined since April 27 with a strained right groin, gave up three runs and six hits. He looked more like the pitcher who won a career-high 10 games last season and less like the one who entered the contest with a 9.16 ERA.

Sure, Hammel outing wasn't nearly as memorable as Jimenez's eight stellar innings of work in the Rockies' 6-2 victory earlier in the day.

But it was close.

"I went back to a positive attitude, just stayed aggressive and attacked hitters tonight," said Hammel, who struck out seven and walked none. "Ubaldo has been doing that all year. It's nice to be mentioned with him. It was a much better result tonight."

The Rockies scored what proved to be the winning run of the nightcap on a throwing error by Ian Desmond in the seventh inning, allowing Paul Phillips to score from third.

Seth Smith's hard grounder up the middle deflected off the glove of Sean Burnett (0-1), slowing it down for Desmond. But the shortstop's toss to first was low and Adam Dunn couldn't scoop the ball, allowing Phillips to score.

"I should make that play," Desmond said. "I expect myself to make that play. I think I will next time."

Carlos Gonzalez and Smith hit back-to-back homers for Colorado, helping the Rockies to their first doubleheader sweep since Sept. 18, 2007, against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"Turns out to be a terrific day for us," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

Dunn hit a tying homer off Hammel in the sixth, his second solo shot of the doubleheader. Roger Bernadina also added a two-out, two-run double to left-center in the fourth.

Those were really the only mistakes that Hammel made. He was pretty much hitting his spots all evening.

"I was ahead of hitters, attacking the zone," Hammel said. "When you do that, good things happen."

Jimenez is proof of that.

In the first game, the Rockies ace was at his best yet again, allowing just two runs and seven hits in his seventh win of the season, tying him for the major league lead.

The hard-throwing righty has been so good this season that his ERA increased after this gem. He entered with a 0.93 mark, and it climbed to 1.12 -- still the best in baseball.

The thing is, he doesn't really understand the fuss over his lively fastball or all the attention he receives after each start.

Jimenez doesn't really think he's doing anything that spectacular.

Try telling that to the Nationals and the rest of the league.

"We got some good swings at what might be the Cy Young Award winner when you look up here at the end of the year," Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. "He's just a great pitcher -- great tempo, challenges hitters, got great offspeed stuff. That's the way he's pitched all year."

The Rockies needed a boost like this, especially after a rash of injuries to their starters.

They had Hammel back for the night game -- pitching effectively, too -- and Jeff Francis is scheduled to start Sunday, his first appearance on a major league mound since Sept. 12, 2008.

Livan Hernandez (4-2), who also has one of the better ERAs in baseball, matched Jimenez most of the way. He allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings.

Even he was gushing about Jimenez.

"He's the best pitcher in the game," said Hernandez, both of his losses coming against Jimenez. "He's unbelievable."

Jason Giambi and Miguel Olivo homered for Colorado in the opener, and Ian Stewart and Clint Barmes each drove in two runs.

Game notes
To make room for Hammel on the roster, Colorado placed infielder Eric Young Jr. on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower right leg. ... Nationals OF Josh Willingham wasn't in the starting lineup in either of the games after tweaking his groin two days ago. He did pinch hit in both games. ... Nationals rookie starter Luis Atilano pitched five up-and-down innings for the Nationals, allowing three runs and four hits with four walks. ... 3B Ryan Zimmerman finished the doubleheader with five hits, making him 13 for 25 this season against the Rockies.