PHILADELPHIA -- In the eyes of manager Jim Tracy, something unconventional had to be done. So before Tuesday's series opener against the Phillies, he told struggling Opening Day starter Jeremy Guthrie that he would be pitching out of the bullpen for the immediate future.
What remains is a four-man rotation, with each starter limited to roughly 75 pitches per outing.
"The only disappointing thing is that the reason we're doing it is cause we're not doing our job," left-hander Jeff Francis said.
But in Day 1 of Tracy's experiment, the plan didn't necessarily seem to matter much. That's because the Rockies' offense was unable to solve Cole Hamels, managing only two runs on six hits off the lefty in a 7-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park.
The defeat was the Rockies' 11th in their last 12 games. They are now 25-41.
Things were looking up for the struggling club early, as five of the first nine Rockies reached base. But from the middle of the second inning until Todd Helton walked midway through the sixth, Hamels retired 13 straight.
"It actually took him an inning to settle in, which you see sometimes with a lot of great starters. Because that's what he is: a great starter," Tracy said. "So when they're a little unsettled -- it looked to me like he was a little unsettled in the first inning -- you have to try to cash in and put a number on him. ... After the [Wilin Rosario] hit [in the second], we didn't get another hit until the sixth inning. He settled in and was throwing all his pitches for strikes."
"I was able to get it under control and get the outs when I needed to," said Hamels, who improved to 10-3.
Tracy stuck to his word, lifting starter Josh Outman with one out in the fifth inning after he had thrown just 72 pitches. Outman's pitching line included four runs on five hits, none more detrimental than John Mayberry Jr.'s two-run homer in the fourth inning.
With two outs and a runner on base, Outman, a former Phillies farmhand, got behind in the count, 2-0, to Mayberry. His next pitch was a 95-mph fastball that Mayberry crushed into the left-field seats, and the Rockies trailed the rest of the night.
"It was over the plate, and it's the wrong pitch to the guy," said Outman, who fell to 0-3. "There's a certain amount of strategy involved, and that pitch in that situation with the next hitter coming up, it's not the right pitch. He's a fastball hitter anyway. Sure, [if] I make a quality pitch there, a better pitch, better location, maybe he rolls it over. So you play the odds sometimes, and that's not a high-percentage pitch."
The Rockies faced a three-run deficit after the home run. They got one back in the sixth on a two-out RBI single by Chris Nelson, but the Phillies piled on against Adam Ottavino in the seventh. Hamels led off with a single, and Carlos Ruiz provided the highlight of the frame with a two-run blast.
The loss capped off an interesting day for the Rockies, whose rotation entered Tuesday with a Major League-worst 6.28 ERA, leaving Tracy concerned about the bullpen's heavy workload.
"They're trying to give us a better chance to win and compete day in and day out," Outman said. "They're trying to get the bullpen on a better schedule. This is what they think is going to work, so I'm onboard."
Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.