DENVER -- The Rockies have to hope they hit bottom Sunday, suffering a 15-2 loss to a depleted Giants lineup, settling for a series split against the division rivals.
"That was a good old fashioned butt-whooping today," Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said of the Rockies' largest margin of defeat since a 15-0 shutout last June. "Nobody likes to play in those games, especially when you're on the losing side."
The Rockies were overmatched by Matt Cain (2-3), who held them to one run on five hits and three walks in his six innings on the hill. Colorado's only run against Cain came on a Willy Taveras run-scoring double in the fifth inning, but even that glimpse of offensive hope only cut the deficit to seven runs.
"He did the same thing he always does," Helton said of Cain. "He challenges you with his fastball and works off it. He was effective up in the zone."
In addition to the offensive drought, Colorado also broke down on the mound, with starting pitcher Taylor Buchholz finding too much of the plate as he served up eight runs on 12 hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings. Buchholz (1-2) struck out seven and threw 61 of 87 pitches for strikes, but he wasn't fooling the Giants, yielding hits to each starter but Ryan Klesko, who saved his hits for the bullpen.
"When's the last time you saw a guy walk one, strike out seven and give up eight earned runs?" asked manager Clint Hurdle. "When balls were over the plate, they were centered, they were elevated."
It was the first time a Rockies pitcher had allowed eight earned runs in a game this season and the second-most hits given up by a Rockies pitcher, following Jeff Francis' 13 hits against the Padres on April 21.
"I felt good out there today," Buchholz said. "I don't know if they just had my number, because good pitch, bad pitch, everything they hit seemed to find a hole."
After balking in a run in the first, the remaining seven of Buchholz's runs came with two outs, the kind of situation that can frustrate a team that feels it's on the verge of solving its opponents, only to come up an out short inning after inning.
"I guess it's a little concentration," Buchholz said of the trend. "I didn't feel like I let down, but I really have to stay strong when I get those two outs."
Buchholz's strikeouts came against seven different hitters, and he was consistent enough to record at least one strikeout in every inning he pitched. He was happy with his fastball command and felt good about his curve, but he recognized that he'd need to study the tapes of this game before casting it out of his memory and looking forward.
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The game was already out of hand at 9-1 when Denny Bautista came in to pitch the seventh. Alberto Arias allowed a run in when he pitched the sixth, and Bautista was called on to mop up after the damage was done. He entered the game with a 10.13 ERA in six games, and he saw it skyrocket to 19.06 after yielding six runs on seven hits in one-third of an inning.
Both Arias and Bautista were optioned back to Triple-A Colorado Springs after the game, making room for Ramon Ramirez's return and the arrival of Jorge Julio, acquired from the Marlins in a trade for Byung-Hyung Kim during the game.
"We'll get some help with Ramirez back in the bullpen," Hurdle said, noting that LaTroy Hawkins could follow Ramirez back to the parent club soon. "Hawkins pitched today [in Colorado Springs]. His velocity was good, he was scratched for a couple hits. We need to get some principals back involved in the bullpen for some stability."
The loss was particularly frustrating for the Rockies, who saw a chance to win the series when San Francisco rested veteran regulars Barry Bonds, Ray Durham, Bengie Molina, and Rich Aurilia on Sunday, but Colorado was unable to take advantage.
Instead, they were brutalized by rookie Fred Lewis, who hit for the cycle in just his fourth big-league start, going 5-for-6 with four RBIs and three runs scored.
"A guy doesn't get five hits by accident," Hurdle said in praising Lewis. "We didn't pitch him as effectively as we'd like to. We've got a lot of areas we know not to pitch him now."
Helton, who slipped into second in the Majors with his .383 average, was equally impressed with the performance from the 26-year-old.
"He swung the bat great," said an appreciative Helton. "The guy hit for the cycle in his 16th game, that's pretty impressive. It was a legit cycle, too. All his balls were hit really hard. That's quite an accomplishment, especially that early in a career."
With the Rockies falling six games below .500, matching their season low, they continue to wait for their own collective accomplishments to play out on the field.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.