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Rox fall in 9th, drop heartbreaker to Cards

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

ST. LOUIS -- The Rockies' recent surge has been based on solid starting pitching, exemplified by Antonio Senzatela's six innings of one-run ball on Thursday afternoon, and a few trusty relievers. But sometimes the formula doesn't work.

Closer Wade Davis -- who entered having given up just one earned run in 18 1/3 relief innings against St. Louis -- gave up Jose Martinez's two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss at Busch Stadium.

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ST. LOUIS -- The Rockies' recent surge has been based on solid starting pitching, exemplified by Antonio Senzatela's six innings of one-run ball on Thursday afternoon, and a few trusty relievers. But sometimes the formula doesn't work.

Closer Wade Davis -- who entered having given up just one earned run in 18 1/3 relief innings against St. Louis -- gave up Jose Martinez's two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss at Busch Stadium.

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The pitching-dominated format has help the Rockies climb into contention in the National League West, where they entered Friday a game behind the D-backs and Dodgers. But factor in a slipup like the one from Davis, who suffered his fifth blown save in 36 chances, and a lack of production at the plate (31 runs in the past 10 games), and it gets precarious.

Video: Must C Clutch: Martinez caps comeback win in the 9th

Colorado dropped three of four in St. Louis, where it has not won a series since 2010.

"We're in every game now, which is good, and we've won most of them," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "We've got to continue to pitch well. If we continue to do that, we'll be fine."

Senzatela held the Cards to one run and struck out five in six innings. Seunghwan Oh and Adam Ottavino offered scoreless work in the seventh and eighth.

Video: COL@STL: Oh strikes out Fowler to begin the 7th

But with one down in the ninth, Greg Garcia pushed a single into left field and Harrison Bader lashed one to right. With Cards slugger Matt Carpenter on deck and Martinez up, Bader alertly stole second to force the Rockies to draw the infield in, and Martinez made it all academic by lashing a pitch into right-center for the game-winner.

"I just left a couple [in bad spots], and they hit some line drives," Davis said. "Obviously, that stolen base didn't help, either."

When the pitching-dominant formula works, it is a nice one.

Video: COL@STL: Parra gets Rockies on board with RBI single

Senzatela's work Thursday placed the Rockies starters' ERA at 3.42 since June 19 -- a stretch during which Colorado is 25-12. It's been the key reason why the Rockies have kept pace in the NL West after entering the day a game back of the co-leading D-backs and Dodgers.

When it comes to upholding the work of the starters, a few Rockies relievers have been expert.

Since the June 19 run began, righty Scott Oberg, who didn't pitch Thursday after some taxing innings this series, is 5-0 with a 1.26 ERA in 15 games. Oh, who threw a perfect seventh with a strikeout, has made four scoreless appearances since joining in a trade with the Blue Jays. Ottavino, after walking one but benefiting from a replay-reversed call for a caught stealing, has a 2.14 ERA.

Video: COL@STL: Wolters hustles, makes strong throw for out

Davis' hiccup was his first in 12 save chances since June 19.

Black is getting little in the way of results from any of the other relievers. Bryan Shaw, still trying to find his form after a rough start and a trip to the disabled list, is closest with four scoreless outings in his past six.

"We've got to continue to work with these guys all the time to get it where the group is pitching well -- that's the goal," Black said.

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Had the Rockies won, the story might have been Senzatela outlasting Cards veteran catcher Yadier Molina through a 12-pitch at-bat.

Two men were on with no outs in the third inning. After a 1-2 count, Molina worked it to 3-2 and kept fouling pitches away until, finally, he hit a lazy fly to short. Senzatela gave up one run that inning on Tyler O'Neill's sacrifice fly, sitting at 54 pitches through three frames, but he threw three more efficient innings.

Video: COL@STL: Senzatela K's 5 over 6 strong vs. the Cards

"I told Senza that I thought the biggest at-bat of the game was when he got Molina early in the game," Black said. "At that point, it's 1-0, first and third and nobody out and a 12-pitch at-bat. I specifically brought Tony [Diaz, the first-base coach] over to make sure he translated that properly."

Senzatela said, "I knew that at-bat was huge, might've been the at-bat of the game for us to have a chance. We battled. It was a mano-a-mano type of fight, and I'm glad that I got him out."

SOUND SMART
The combo of consistent starters and the right relievers is being strained by a low-run output.

The Rockies scored their only runs in their four-hit fourth against starter Miles Mikolas, on Gerardo Parra's RBI single and Mikolas' wild throw on Ian Desmond's infield single to allow Parra to score from second. They have averaged 3.1 runs per game while going 5-5 in their past 10.

Video: COL@STL: Parra scores on Desmond's single, error

The Rockies went to the lineup of last season and early this season, with Charlie Blackmon leading off and DJ LeMahieu -- back after missing 10 games with a left oblique strain -- hitting second. They've been reversed most of this season. Whatever the lineup, the offense must regain traction.

Blackmon was complimentary of a young Cardinals staff that was aggressive and didn't make mistakes.

Video: COL@STL: LeMahieu turns an inning-ending double play

"We haven't scored as many runs as we're capable of as of late," Blackmon said. "DJ Is a great player who is certainly going to help us score more runs."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Tony Wolters had an eventful day. There was an athletic pickup and throw to first to retire Marcell Ozuna to end the first, and a throw to LeMahieu in the eighth to erase a stealing Paul DeJong, which took a crew-chief review to determine that LeMahieu tagged DeJong's right foot while his left foot was off the bag.

Video: COL@STL: Wolters nabs DeJong after review in 8th

But Wolters' throw in the sixth made the day memorable for all the wrong reasons.

With O'Neill at first and two outs, Senzatela fanned Yairo Munoz on a ball that Wolters had to block. But instead of throwing to first to end the inning, Wolters popped up and threw a strike to an uncovered second base. That meant that the ball ended up in the outfield and O'Neill ended up at third.

"I just threw it, like it was normal reaction," said Wolters, who said he knew it was strike three and knew the number of outs, but was upset with himself for the mistake.

Video: COL@STL: O'Neill draws throw, error on strikeout

Senzatela hit Garcia to load the bases, but he fanned Bader to end the threat and his day.

UP NEXT
Righty German Marquez will open a three-game series at Milwaukee -- which will start righty Junior Guerra on Friday at 6:10 p.m. MT -- on a hot streak. Marquez went 3-0 with a 3.65 ERA in four July starts. In his last game, he held the A's to two runs and five hits while striking out eight in 7 2/3 innings of a 3-2 home victory.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Wade Davis, Gerardo Parra, Antonio Senzatela, Tony Wolters