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Padres can't climb out of early hole against Rockies

DENVER -- For five glorious innings Sunday, Padres pitcher Edinson Volquez pitched about as well as you could reasonably expect a pitcher to do so at Coors Field.

Volquez's changeup danced on a breezy afternoon in Denver. He was efficient, threw a bunch of strikes and yielded but one run, all while staying away from his biggest nemesis -- the base on balls.

The only catch was that by the time all of this happened, the Padres were already sufficiently buried by the Rockies, following an abhorrent first frame by Volquez that belied his fast finish.

"When you give up three runs in the first inning, it's tough for the team," Volquez said.

In the end, the results were all too familiar, as the Rockies completed a three-game series sweep with a 9-1 victory in front of a crowd of 31,060, a win which sent Colorado's hopes soaring, all while having the opposite effect on the reeling Padres.

At 1-5, the Padres head to their first off-day of this young season on Monday with the worst start after six games since 2002. This is also the sixth-worst start in franchise history.

"We're concerned about how we're playing," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We're not pitching well. We're not hitting well. It's a little more magnified at the start of the season."

It's not one thing that's troubling the Padres, who face the Dodgers on Tuesday at Petco Park in front of a sold-out crowd -- it's everything.

The team has a .204 batting average and has scored 14 runs in six games, and only once has scored four or more runs in one game. The starting pitchers haven't worked deep enough into games, and the staff ERA is 6.43.

Worse still, the two best pitchers on the staff -- relievers Luke Gregerson (two games) and closer Huston Street (one appearance) -- haven't been able to pitch important innings and protect leads, because there have been so few to be had thus far.

Aside from an 11-2 loss on Opening Day to the Mets, the Padres have been in every one of the games they had played this season. That beats the alternative, said Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso.

"We just need to play baseball and clean up a few things; we just need to play," Alonso said. "Just play the game and not force things."

The Padres found themselves in a big hole again Sunday, as Volquez scuffled early, allowing four extra base hits in the first inning with one walk -- his only walk of the game -- and two wild pitches. The big blow was a two-run home run by Dexter Fowler.

"It was a little tough for me to get loose in the first inning," Volquez said of an inning in which he threw 33 pitches.

After allowing three runs in the opening frame, Volquez essentially morphed into an entirely different pitcher, one who managed to keep the Padres in their series finale against the Rockies for longer than anyone who witnessed the first inning might have expected.

After that fateful first inning, the only other run Volquez (0-2) allowed occurred in the sixth, when Jonathan Herrera hit a flare to left field for an RBI single that made it 4-1. The Rockies (5-1) scored five runs over the last two innings to win going away.

"The high pitch count in the first, we've seen that a couple of times through six games," Black said. "He recovered well after it looked bleak there early on. They [Rockies] jumped on some pitches early."

Colorado starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin (1-0) had no such trouble. He allowed one run on six hits in 6 2/3 innings, and got 14 groundball outs.

"The Padres, they swing, they're aggressive. I was just trying to throw strikes, throw my sinker down, and let them hit it," Chacin said.

But it hasn't been that simple for the Padres, who were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Sunday, and have a .259 on-base percentage through their first six games.

Still, as veteran outfielder Mark Kotsay noted following the game, there's a whole lot of season left to be played.

"Six games into the season," Kotsay said, while tucking in his shirt for the flight to San Diego. "I hope we're not dwelling on the negatives. We just need to get back home and play better baseball."

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.
Read More: San Diego Padres, Chris Denorfia, Edinson Volquez, Jedd Gyorko