The opportunities were there, and the Rockies made something of the window of possibility left open, but they fell short of making the most of their chances.
Down to his final strike with two out in the ninth, Matt Holliday drilled a Joakim Soria fastball up the middle with two men on, driving home Steve Finley with the game-tying run and sending the game into extra innings.
The ninth-inning rally temporarily negated a frustrating afternoon, as the Rockies struggled for seven innings to overcome a damaging third inning from the Royals. Rockies starter Jason Hirsh allowed five hits for four runs in the third, and it took every ounce of the Rockies' resources to make up the deficit.
Once pulling even in the ninth, the Rockies repeatedly stalled when given the opportunity to pull ahead. The Rockies left 13 men on base, including nine from the eighth inning on.
"We kept running people out on base in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th and couldn't get that big click to open things up for us," Hurdle said. "After the Royals got the four runs, our pitching threw a bunch of zeros up until the end. We had opportunities to make a move and score a run and win the ballgame, and we weren't able to do it."
The first stage of the Rockies rebound came in the fifth inning, when they put together three doubles to right from Brad Hawpe, Omar Quintanilla, and Troy Tulowitzki, but starting pitcher Brian Bannister fanned Holliday to end the inning and maintain the one-run margin.
Outside of the third, Hirsh was effective, if not sharp, allowing only one other hit, one walk and one hit batter in the remaining four of his five innings pitched.
"I was disappointed with the way I threw," Hirsh said. "I had a great week leading up to this. My bullpens were unbelievable. My previous outing was real good. I had command in the bullpen. Everything was working there. But coming in the game, I just flushed it all down the toilet. It was a big disappointment for me."
Hirsh was finding his rhythm in the his last two innings of work, retiring six of the seven batters he faced, but he was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the inning as the Rockies mounted a three-run rally.
"We're trying to battle for some runs, it's understandable, but I don't know, I was a pretty hot hitter coming up to bat," Hirsh joked, referring to his first Major League hit, a single to right in the third.
Quintanilla made a pair of key plays at second to hold the Royals, charging a slow roller to the right of the mound with a runner on third in the second inning and throwing out Alex Gordon at the plate to erase his leadoff triple. Quintanilla then ranged deep behind the bag to snare a bounding ball from Tony Pena and secured the inning-ending out.
Finley also flashed the glove, chasing down a bases-loaded, two-out deep fly in right-center in the eighth inning, keeping the Rockies within one. Royals center fielder David DeJesus returned the favor in the bottom of the inning, running down Holliday's line drive to the deepest part of the park with a man on first and nobody out.
"I hit it about as good as I can hit it on line," Holliday said. "I wasn't sure it was out, but I was sure it was a hit. He was playing pretty deep, and that, with the wind, it turns into an out. It was a little deflating personally, but it's part of the game. He made a good play."
Reliever Manny Corpas, the victim in the Royals eighth-inning go-ahead rally on Friday, found a measure of redemption with a pair of scoreless innings in the ninth and 10th, but closer Brian Fuentes' served up an 11th-inning run-scoring triple to Mark Teahan to give the lead back to the Royals.
"It's frustrating to come back and then go back and forth," said Fuentes. "It's tough, but we'll move on."
Holliday came through again in the bottom of the inning, following Tulowitzki's leadoff walk by lacing a single to left, where Emil Brown had trouble fielding the ball. The error allowed Tulowitzki to score the tying run and pushed the game into the 12th.
The Rockies ran out of rabbits to pull out of their hats after Ramon Ramirez gave up five runs on two doubles, a single, an intentional walk and a hit batsman in the top of the 12th, finally putting the game out of reach.
"We're all frustrated," said Hurdle, echoing a growing sentiment in the Rockies clubhouse seven weeks into the season. "We need to pick it up in a couple key areas, and that'll help the confidence -- not that the confidence is waning -- but we need a jump start.
"It's time to go out and get something done."