DENVER -- Blistered baseballs beware, because there are, apparently, a few other ways to put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard at Coors Field.
The Padres discovered this the hard way Saturday, as three softly-hit singles -- call them flares, call them bloops, call them what you like -- inflicted as much damage as any missile that has ever punctuated the rarified Denver air.
"I've never seen that three times in a row," lamented Padres reliever Brad Brach, who allowed the hits.
Those three hits, run-scoring singles by Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer, might not have accumulated much distance in the fifth inning, but they were enough to bury the Padres, as the Rockies rolled to a 6-3 victory before a crowd of 31,133.
San Diego pitcher Tyson Ross, who needed 96 pitches to get 12 outs in his debut with the team, allowed the first two hitters to reach base in the fifth inning. Manager Bud Black went to his bullpen for Brach in hopes of dousing a big inning before it got started.
Instead, he got something else.
Gonzalez blooped a broken-bat single into center field that landed well in front of a charging Cameron Maybin for a run. Tulowitzki did the same, only his hit fell in front of Will Venable for another run-scoring single. The very next batter, Cuddyer, hit the hardest ball of the inning, though it too didn't register much of a blip on the sweet spot, an RBI single to right field that made it 4-1.
"I've got to execute down in the zone," Brach said. "It's frustrating. They hit it harder, it's an out. They hit it slower, it's an out. They didn't fall in the gloves, but fell in the grass instead."
The Rockies (4-1) would later get a two-run home run by Cuddyer off of Padres reliever Andrew Cashner in the seventh inning but the decisive inning was the fifth, when runs that crossed the plate must have felt something akin to nails on chalkboard.
"That's the sign of good hitters. Not every time are you going to be able to put the barrel on the ball," Cuddyer said. "But to keep the bat in the zone long enough to fight through, you get balls to dump in -- especially in this ballpark, because the outfielders are playing deep."
As was the case in Friday's 5-2 loss to the Rockies, the Padres (1-4) had their chances. Their leadoff hitter reached base five different times, but the team managed to score just three runs. A lineup missing Chase Headley, who led the league in RBIs a year ago (115), has scored more than three runs only once this season.
Carlos Quentin had two doubles in the game, as the Padres finished with eight hits. Through the first five games of the season, the Padres are hitting .191 as a team with a .258 on-base percentage.
"He's getting his hits," Black said of Quentin. "We need the other guys to get their hits. That's the issue."
Ross, who won the No. 5 spot in the rotation with a strong body of work during Spring Training, needed 34 pitches to get out of the first inning. His ball-strike ratio (61 strikes, 35 balls) wasn't bad at all, though the Rockies managed to drive up his pitch count with long at-bats.
"He battled. Going in, we knew his stuff would be good," Black said. "The first inning put him behind as far as pitch count. But he kept us in there. I liked what I saw overall. A lot of foul balls, but you don't have any control over that. I liked that he was in the strike zone."
A nine-pitch at-bat to Gonzalez in the first inning resulted in a walk. He needed 11 more pitches to retire Todd Helton in the inning. An eight-pitch walk to Dexter Fowler to begin that fateful fifth didn't help much either. All told, Ross (0-1) walked four, struck out two and allowed three hits and two earned runs during his four-plus innings.
"I threw a lot of pitches early, and definitely had too many walks ... I just ran out of bullets," Ross said. "You get two strikes on a guy, and you've got to get him out. I've got to do a better job of letting them put the ball in play instead of trying to be too fine."
Colorado pitcher Jon Garland, facing the team for which he pitched in 2010, allowed two runs on five hits over six innings. The Padres got two hits from rookie infielder Jedd Gyorko, including an RBI double in the eighth inning.