DENVER -- Jhoulys Chacin finished better than he started. By then, the damage was done.
Chacin was jolted for three runs in the first inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals withstood Colorado's ninth-inning rally to beat the Rockies 4-3 Sunday.
"The way it started was pitches elevated in the strike zone," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said of Chacin. "By the time we got to the third inning, the ball got down where it was supposed to be and he did a masterful job of taking us through six innings."
Chacin (5-4) gave up four runs and six hits, including a game-opening single by Ryan Theriot followed by Jon Jay's drive into the right field seats for his fourth home run of the season. Colby Rasmus, who went 6 for 12 in the three-game series taken by St. Louis, also homered off Chacin leading off the fourth.
"The homer to Rasmus, I was trying to throw a sinker in," Chacin said. "I just left it up in the middle and when you do that, you pay for those mistakes. After the third inning, I started to throw better. I tried to throw zeros and tried to keep the team in the game. That's all you can do after you give up three runs in the first inning, try to throw zeros and wait for the team to rally."
Colorado did give itself a chance late, but came up short.
In the ninth, closer Fernando Salas walked Ryan Spilborghs before striking out the next two hitters. After an RBI single by Eric Young Jr., Dexter Fowler singled to right to put runners on the corners. But Salas got Carlos Gonzalez to ground out as the Rockies lost for the eighth time in 10 games.
"It's always hard when you lose a game, knowing that you could have done something with the situation in front of you," Gonzalez said. "We couldn't get the job done. You don't deserve to win when you do that and leave runners on base."
The Rockies struggled to get anything going early against Kyle Lohse (7-2) a night after scoring a season-high 15 runs. The righty scattered six hits and struck out six before running out of steam in the seventh.
A healthy Lohse joins a pack of major league pitchers tied at seven wins. He had a total of 10 victories over the last two seasons while hampered by a forearm injury that required surgery last year.
"He was changing his speeds, coming with the fastball and then he'd throw the breaking ball. He threw a lot of changes, too," Gonzalez said of Lohse. "We were unable to hit it. We were out front all the time."
Lohse was cruising along until the seventh when he gave up three straight hits to begin the frame, including an RBI single by Ty Wigginton.
With the performance of Juan Nicasio on Saturday night in his major league debut, Tracy now has quite a dilemma. The hard-throwing righty was scheduled to make only a spot start, but he limited St. Louis, one of the best-hitting teams in the league, to six hits and one unearned run in seven innings.
Tracy isn't sure how his rotation is going to shake out as he juggles things around in the wake of lefty Jorge De La Rosa's season-ending elbow injury.
Aaron Cook made his final rehab start at Triple-A Colorado Springs on Saturday, surrendering six runs in 7 2-3 innings. Cook, who has been sidelined all season with a broken finger, is eligible to come off the disabled list Monday.
"We still have a little bit more homework we have to do first," Tracy said when talking about how he's going to set up his rotation moving forward.
Especially since Nicasio threw a wrinkle into those plans.
"In a good way, he certainly did," Tracy said. "How could you ignore what we sat here and watched last night?"
NOTES: The Rockies embark on a nine-game road trip that starts Monday in Los Angeles. ... Rockies OF Seth Smith (groin) entered the game as a pinch hitter in the ninth and struck out. ... The Rockies recalled INF Chris Nelson from Colorado Springs and designated veteran Alfredo Amezaga for assignment. ... Wigginton had three of Colorado's nine hits. ... Cardinals OF Matt Holliday was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game due to left quadriceps tightness.