SAN DIEGO -- Padres left-handed pitcher Eric Stults became the latest to stump the shorthanded Rockies, to the tune of one run and four hits in a complete-game, 2-1 decision at Petco Park in front of 22,733.
But at least a gloomy night turned a little brighter at the end.
Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger revealed that leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler and All-Star shortstop and cleanup man Troy Tulowitzki are flying to the West Coast Wednesday. If an evaluation goes their way, they will be activated for Thursday's opener of a four-game series against the Dodgers. Both played well in injury rehab games Monday and Tuesday. Fowler hasn't played since June 25 because of a right hand injury and Tulowitzki has been out since June 13 with a broken rib.
Tuesday night was a downer in so many ways, as the Rockies blew a chance to trim a game off the 4 1/2 that separate them and the National League West-leading D-backs.
The Rockies, 1-4 in what will be a 10-game NL West road trip going into the All-Star break, played their second straight game without left fielder and NL home run leader Carlos Gonzalez, who is out with a sprained middle finger on his right hand. Missing three stalwarts, the Rockies wasted six strong innings from starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin. Also, oft-shaky reliever Wilton Lopez's seventh inning in which he gave up a run and four hits proved costly.
Stults, who appeared in six games for the Rockies in 2011, was a source of much of the Rockies' frustration. He didn't give up a hit until Josh Rutledge's infield single to open the fifth, and the run didn't come until Nolan Arenado's two-out single that scored Wilin Rosario from second with two outs in the ninth.
Trying to stay close to the National League West-leading D-backs during a brutal 10-game road trip going into the All-Star break, the Rockies had a chance to trim the 4 1/2-game distance from the top. Instead, Stults dominated and the Rockies were foils as the Padres ended their losing streak at 10 games.
On this road trip, the Rockies have struggled against pitchers of all ilk. The D-backs swept them in three games, as prospect Tyler Skaggs led a shutout, 5-0, up-and-down Wade Miley flew high in an 11-1 victory, and All-Star Patrick Corbin struck out 10 in a 6-1 win.
Stults isn't an All-Star, but he has been no slouch, especially at Petco -- 4-0, 1.17 ERA since May 7. After losses at Miami and Boston, he welcomed a trip to his friendly and familiar surroundings.
"I felt like tonight the big thing for me was my tempo felt good, better than it did in Miami or Boston," Stults said. "My fastball down and away was the best that it's been."
But the Rockies helped him, also.
"We didn't have a very good approach tonight as a team," Rockies veteran Michael Cuddyer said. "That's the best answer I can give you. We swung at too many pitches."
Swinging or not, the Rockies haven't been effective. Here are some of the numbers during this road trip for some of Tuesday's starters: DJ LeMahieu 0-for-17, Jordan Pacheco 0-for-14, Tyler Colvin 2-for-12, Rutledge 1-for-12. Arenado, the usual starter at third, improved to 2-for-14 with his RBI single.
Chacin gave up five hits and struck out four, and yielded his only run in the third. Stults singled, and Everth Cabrera beat out a possible double play. Then Alexi Amarista tripled into the right-center power alley to plate Amarista. After walking Chase Headley, Chacin struck out Carlos Quentin and forced Jesus Guzman into an inning-ending grounder.
Beyond that, Chacin was smooth, but the Rockies' philosophy is to keep pitchers around the 100-pitch mark. He threw 97 through six, and admitted envy while watching Stults' count climb.
"I knew they were going to take me out," Chacin said. "Stults threw 126 pitches and threw a complete game. That's just different styles and sides. That's what made me frustrated. You just do the most you can do."
The Rockies' philosophy works only if the pitchers are collectively effective. But Lopez threw an uneven seventh that started with Will Venable's double, included Lopez saving a run when he nabbed Stults' squeeze bunt with runners at the corners and flipped to the plate to retire Venable, and gave up Amarista's bases-loaded single for a 2-0 disadvantage.
Acquired in a trade from the Astros, where he was a groundball-forcing closer, Lopez has seen balls lifted into the outfield and innings go awry. He has given up runs in half of his last 12 outings and pitched himself out of a role protecting leads. Tuesday, letting the Padres double their lead led to a Rockies loss.
"It's been that way a lot for him," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He gave up some soft hits again today, but it was good to see him minimize that inning and just give up one. He certainly had to battle through that inning. It looks like some two-seamers were elevated more than he wanted."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.