"A difficult chore is in front of us," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got work to do, that's where we are."
Heading into the rubber game of this three-game series, the Rockies knew they would need a transcendent effort from Glendon Rusch, who was matched against All-Star Dan Haren.
Rusch had been the consummate back-end starter the past month, winning four straight decisions, and in the early goings Thursday it seemed his streak would continue. The 33-year-old whizzed through the first four innings, retiring 11 straight batters and striking out three.
But Rusch gave up a double to Mark Reynolds to lead off the fifth, and he quickly unraveled. Chris Snyder and Chris Burke hit back-to-back home runs to left field to put Arizona ahead, 3-1. Rusch then loaded the bases on two walks and a base hit before being replaced by Matt Herges, who promptly gave up a two-run single to Adam Dunn.
"Today would have been a great day to come out and win a ballgame," Rusch said. "It didn't happen."
Haren, meanwhile, was nearly untouchable. He gave up a run-scoring double to Chris Iannetta in the second, but didn't budge again until Matt Holliday hit a home run -- his 23rd of the season -- to lead off the eighth.
"He's one of a handful of elite pitchers in the game," Hurdle said.
Haren (13-6) is known for his destructive splitter, but it was the precise location of his fastball that buckled the Rockies. He struck out nine batters and gave up just those two runs in eight solid innings.
"His accuracy was pinpoint," said Clint Barmes, who went 0-for-4. "I mean, he was putting balls wherever he wanted them -- inside, outside. It's not like it was unexpected."
The same cannot be said of the Rockies' nosedive during this homestand, especially after a successful 6-4 road trip that had them dreaming of another rendezvous with postseason glory.
The Rockies begin a six-game road trip Friday against the Nationals before traveling across the country for a three-game set with the Dodgers.
Colorado has won a Major League low 20 games on the road this season, but right now there's no place the Rockies would rather be.
"We obviously had a good situation coming into the homestand, and it didn't work out," Barmes said. "Now we're going on the road, and I think that's a good place to start and pick up from there."