But Brad Hawpe erased that with a two-run home run to center field off Pirates closer Matt Capps to key a 3-1 victory Friday night at PNC Park in front of 17,179.
The Rockies trailed, 1-0, when home-plate umpire Scott Barry ruled that Seth Smith left third base early on Troy Tulowitzki's lineout to left field. TV replays did not appear to support the call.
The resulting double play put Colorado in danger of losing its ninth of 10 one-run decisions, not to mention losing for the second successive time when pitcher Jorge De La Rosa (seven innings, one run, seven hits, 10 strikeouts) reached double figures in strikeouts.
But when Hawpe homered after Ian Stewart's pinch-hit leadoff single, he merely was trying to help the Rockies (14-20) win for the fourth time in nine games and start a 10-game road trip positively.
"We needed to turn it around anyways," said Hawpe, who is hitting .363 with six homers after his 2-for-4 night. "I hadn't seen the replays of that call. That was out of my mind. That's not something I was concerned with.
"That's why you play the game, for fun moments and opportunities like that. You're not going to come through every time. But that's why you love the game."
Well, Hawpe was speaking for himself when downplaying the potential damage of a loss. Several in purple pinstripes said the circumstances made the victory crucial.
"It's early in the season, but at the same time, it's nice to get off on the road trip on a good foot and do it in a fashion like that -- come back when you're down, get [hurt] on a call -- very impressive," Tulowitzki said.
Smith: "It's big to win a game like that in the late innings, especially for us. We hadn't been playing great."
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, who argued the call on the field: "For us to come back was important. A lot of good things happened tonight."
Colorado has played too many games in which the good doesn't lead to a victory. De La Rosa, who fanned 12 in his previous start but suffered a 3-1 loss to the Marlins, has been good more often than not this year (3.16 ERA). Nonetheless, he's winless in six starts.
On Friday, De La Rosa trumped the Pirates by being able to use his changeup at any time. He pitched scoreless ball until two were out in the sixth. Nate McLouth singled, stole second and scored on Craig Monroe's single.
Pirates starter Paul Maholm struck out four and held the Rockies to four hits and a walk in seven scoreless innings, so De La Rosa couldn't win. But he didn't worry.
"I've learned more, I control myself, I threw more quality strikes and nothing bothers me when I'm out there," De La Rosa said.
Rockies left fielder Ryan Spilborghs, who followed Hawpe's homer with a single and scored on Matt Murton's pinch-hit single, made two key catches. Spilborghs leaped to rob Jack Wilson of a possible home run in the third inning, and he ran down Adam La Roche's deep fly to end the eighth with two on base.
Colorado's three runs and five hits off Capps (0-2) in the ninth made a winner of reliever Alan Embree (1-1), who threw a scoreless eighth despite two walks -- one intentional -- and set up Huston Street to strike out three in the ninth for his sixth save.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.