Late rally just short as Padres fall to Rox

Late rally just short as Padres fall to Rox

DENVER -- There was a mention of the panic button on Sunday at Coors Field, but in all fairness, it was used in the framework that the Padres shouldn't venture anywhere near it after their first six games.

If there was a regret button, though, it might well have been pushed, poked and prodded beyond the point of usefulness after the Padres' 4-2 loss to the Rockies, a loss that left the team 2-4 after its season-opening road trip.

There was starting pitcher Jon Garland, who dropped to 0-2, lamenting a pitch that didn't go his way in the third inning, yielding a two-out walk on a close call to Jason Giambi that finished an exhausting 10-pitch at-bat.

"I still think Giambi swung at that ball," Garland said, sound perturbed. "That was the difference in the game."

The next batter, Troy Tulowitzki, lined a single up the middle for a lead the Rockies (3-3) wouldn't relinquish. Garland would later express remorse over a pitch he left up to Miguel Olivo that became a home run souvenir.

There was regret on the side of the Padres' hottest hitter, Chase Headley. Headley, who raised his average to .440 with two hits on Sunday, bounced into a double play in the fourth inning with two men on and no outs.

Then, in the seventh inning and with Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (2-0) gone from the game, Headley, with two on, ran into a sinker from reliever Randy Flores, driving it well, though the ball was caught just shy of the warning track in center field.

"I put a good swing on it," Headley said. "With two strikes, I maybe cut down a little [on the swing]. Maybe that's why it stayed in the ballpark."

Padres hitters reached double-digits in strikeouts (10) for already the fourth time in 2010 as they found themselves, again, on the losing end against another top pitcher from the NL West, Jimenez.

On their season-opening pass through half of their division, in Arizona and Colorado, the Padres ran into Dan Haren in Arizona, then Jorge De La Rosa and Jimenez here.

"As this plays out, the division will be very competitive," said San Diego manager Bud Black, who didn't sound surprised by the performance of the opposing clubs. With his own team, though, Black is still trying to figure out what he has on his hands.

"We were in the game and had a chance to get a little closer," Black said of the loss on Sunday.

The Padres were in the first week hurt by their inefficiency at the plate -- they have a .213 team batting average and a .274 on-base percentage -- and their proclivity for strikeouts.

They have struggled from the leadoff spot in the order, with Tony Gwynn and Everth Cabrera hitting a combined .205. The first three hitters in the order on Sunday -- Cabrera, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Adrian Gonzalez -- went a combined 1-for-11 with five strikeouts.

"Our pitching has been great, but now it's up to the offense to get hot and not miss those pitches," said Padres outfielder Will Venable, who had two hits and drove in the Padres' first run with an RBI single off Jimenez in the sixth inning.

As for Garland, he pitched better than he did in Arizona on Opening Day, when he lasted four innings. He was able to mix in a changeup occasionally to show the Rockies a pitch other than his sinker, which led to seven ground-ball outs.

That wasn't enough ground balls by his expectations, though.

"I've left a lot of stuff up and out over the plate," said Garland, who has a 5.40 ERA in his two starts. "I'm not happy."

Really, no one is. The Padres weren't expected to challenge for the division, not with the Rockies, Giants and even the Dodgers, looking as formidable as ever. But to a man, they will say that they're a better offensive team than they've shown so far.

"We were pretty much in every game, even the first one [a 7-0 loss to the Rockies] it was 3-0 until late," Headley said. "We faced some good arms and had some good at-bats. Six games into the season, it's not time to push the panic button."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.