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Rockies' Jason Hammel Opposes Padres' Jon Garland Tonight In NL West Contest

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(Sports Network) - The Colorado Rockies may be making a hard run at first place in the National League West, but the division-leading San Diego Padres showed last night that they won't be giving up the top spot so easily.

Fresh off a much-needed victory in the opener of this critical three-game series, the Padres head back to Coors Field this evening for another showdown with the red-hot Rockies.

San Diego put an end to Colorado's 10-game win streak and regained sole possession of first place in the West with Monday's 6-4 triumph. The victory moved the Padres a half-game ahead of idle San Francisco in the standings, with the Rockies now 2 1/2 games off the pace.

Miguel Tejada gave San Diego a quick lead with a two-run homer off Colorado starter Jeff Francis in the first inning, and the Padres extended the margin to 5-0 by scoring three times in the fifth. Tejada came up with the big hit once again in that frame, a two-RBI single with two out.

The Rockies answered with a four-spot in their half of the fifth, capped by Troy Tulowitzki's three-run homer, but four San Diego relievers combined to hold Colorado scoreless over the final four frames and protect the lead.

"We feel as though we have the pitching to handle close games," Padres manager Bud Black said. "I think we play defense well in close games. Throughout the course of the season we've gotten timely hitting."

Ernesto Frieri (1-1) was credited with the win after getting the final out of fifth after taking over for Padres starter Cory Luebke, who was reached for four runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings. All-Star closer Heath Bell notched his 41st save with a shutout ninth.

San Diego, which had lost 13 of 17 coming in, received a three-hit night out of Tejada and two hits and a pair of runs scored from Aaron Cunningham. Oscar Salazar provided some insurance with a pinch-hit solo homer in the top of the ninth.

Francis (4-5), making his first start following a near month-long stint on the disabled list due to shoulder soreness, lasted just three innings and gave up two runs on five hits.

The loss halted a seven-game home win streak for the Rockies, who haven't dropped a series at Coors Field since July 27-29 versus Pittsburgh. Colorado has prevailed in 19 of its past 24 contests at home and is 17-5 overall since August 22.

"We've made a mad dash back into this thing," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "What we need to do [Tuesday] ... we need to bounce back."

Colorado could be in prime position for a rebound if Jason Hammel can continue his season-long success at Coors Field when he takes the mound tonight. The right-hander sports a 7-1 record and a 3.67 earned run average in 14 home starts thus far in 2010, and the Rockies have come out on top in each of his last five overall outings.

Hammel wasn't at his best in Wednesday's home assignment against Cincinnati, surrendering five runs over seven innings of work, but managed to keep his team in the game and produce a no-decision in the Rockies' 6-5 verdict over the NL Central-leading Reds. Prior to that effort, he bested the Padres in San Diego on September 4 by allowing just two runs and six hits in 6 2/3 effective frames.

That performance improved Hammel to 3-0 with a 4.56 ERA in nine lifetime games against the Padres, eight of which have been starts. All three of those victories have taken place this season.

The Rockies have fared well as a team against the Padres as well in 2010, having taken 11 of the 16 previous meetings between the divisional foes this year.

San Diego will turn to the struggling Jon Garland tonight in hopes of reversing that trend. The veteran right-hander has lost in each of his last three starts, however, including a matchup against Hammel and Colorado on September 4.

Garland did strike out seven Colorado hitters that night, but was tagged for three runs (two earned) on seven hits and walked three before exiting after 4 2/3 shaky innings. The offseason acquisition was also dealt a defeat by the Rockies in Coors Field back in April after permitting four runs in six innings.

In his most recent start, Garland allowed six runs and served up three homers over five innings in a costly home loss to San Francisco on Thursday.