The Rockies had won 11 of their last 15 games and swept the Cleveland Indians. A run for the top spot in the National League West seemed less like a pipe dream and more like an inevitability or at least a great possibility.
Positive nouns weren't used so freely on Wednesday. The Rockies lost their third straight to the Royals, 4-2, and their fourth game in a row.
The good news is that the National League West isn't getting any better. The Rockies are still eight games behind the division-leading Diamondbacks, who've continued their freefall during the last week. They were also eight back when they completed the Cleveland sweep and talked about gaining more ground.
Given the lack of lost progress, Colorado can chalk this up as a bad series, rather than a total 180 degrees from the momentum that seemed to be pulling it closer and closer near the top of the division.
But this certainly was a buzz-kill.
Colorado committed four errors, left 28 runners on base and held a lead for just one inning during the three-game sweep.
"Our lack of execution cost us this entire series," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It didn't just happen in the field. We had a lack of execution at the plate. It was all around. There's not one thing we did well this series, and there's not many series where that happens. We got nicked all over the place."
Colorado got its first lead of the series in the second inning when catcher Chris Iannetta doubled, scoring Garrett Atkins. It didn't last.
By the third, the Rockies started getting into trouble. After a leadoff double by Ross Gload, Atkins misfired on a throw to first base and the umpire ruled Joey Gathright safe from Todd Helton's tag, although replays showed otherwise.
Gload scored on a David DeJesus single. Then, more errors struck. Omar Quintanilla was off the bag when second baseman Clint Barmes tossed him the ball for an attempted double play. His throw to first wasn't in time, either. DeJesus, who would've been out at second, scored on a sacrifice fly.
Starter Aaron Cook kept the Rockies in the game. The damage could've been worse in the fourth, but he limited the Royals to those two runs. He gave up two more in the sixth and finished after 5 1/3 innings.
"We put some better defense behind him," Hurdle said, "the whole dynamic of the game has a chance to change."
Cook didn't miss spots often or throw too many pitches up in the zone. The Royals just had good at-bats. Gload, who delivered the key sixth-inning double that drove in two runs, fouled off five balls and made Cook throw eight pitches before he finally connected for his big hit.
Brad Hawpe's 10th home run of the year, which came in the seventh, was all that Colorado could muster after the second inning. Starter Luke Hochevar, who was born in Denver, had the best outing of his young career, going eight innings, giving up just two runs and retiring 10 consecutive batters at one point.
Joakim Soria pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 21st save, and that was it for the Rockies. Swept.
The bipolar tendencies of Colorado continue. The season's been a menagerie of hot and cold streaks. The Rockies had gone through two four-game losing streaks and losing streaks of five, six and eight games before this recent slide. They've been on four three-game winning streaks and two four-game winning streaks.
Right now, they're on one of those downers, but first place is still just as close as it was after the last wave of good play. That makes a disappointing sweep like this one much easier to accept.
"We were playing really good baseball for about a three-, four-week period," Cook said. "You just forget about it, this series."
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less