MILWAUKEE -- When Ryan Wheeler sent a Wily Peralta slider soaring over Miller Park's right-field wall in the fourth inning, it seemed as if the grand slam might breathe new life into an exhausted Rockies team. Instead, the home run became a footnote in another Colorado defeat as the struggling pitching staff could not contain the Milwaukee lineup in a 7-4 loss Thursday night.
Christian Friedrich lasted only four-plus innings, allowing five runs in his second Major League start of the year, including three in the first inning. The Rockies have now lost nine of their past 10 games and four straight to Milwaukee within the past week.
In a stretch where the Rockies are without three starting pitchers and three lineup cornerstones, Friedrich continued a trend of pitchers exiting early, further taxing an already tired bullpen. In this 10-game stretch, the Rockies have averaged 4.2 runs a game, but their pitchers have allowed 7.5.
"It's a tough recipe," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "When your starter's out of the game before the sixth, it's tough to get through it. But he battled and hung in there pretty well tonight."
Friedrich's night started ominously when Rickie Weeks knocked his first pitch into the stands in left field to give the Brewers an instant 1-0 lead. The left-hander then walked Ryan Braun, who was driven in two outs later by another home run, this time by Aramis Ramirez.
"Two pitches that weren't executed," Friedrich said. "First pitch of the game, I kind of left it over the plate. He got a hold of it and hit it real well. And then Aramis, you can't make a mistake, especially when you're 0-2. I probably should've buried something there, make sure it's out of the zone."
But it seemed as if the game would turn around for the Rockies in the third. The Brewers had two runners in scoring position for No. 3 hitter Jonathan Lucroy, who hit a rope down the third-base line on the ninth pitch of his at-bat. Ryan Wheeler caught the liner and dived to third base for a double play that kept the Rockies out of trouble.
"That would have been huge if 'Luc' gets that ball by him and we have another big inning," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "It does change things. We talk about a guy having a great at-bat, and you can't control what happens."
The next inning, Wheeler complemented his defense with a big blast, driving in Justin Morneau, Troy Tulowitzki and Corey Dickerson with his home run to right field. It was his second home run of the season and first big league grand slam.
But Friedrich could not stay out of trouble, putting on at least two baserunners in four of the five innings in which he pitched. Though Friedrich escaped jams in the third and fourth innings, Milwaukee broke through in the fifth with three straight hits to start the inning. Friedrich was lifted after Lucroy's RBI single that nearly left the park. Khris Davis' sacrifice fly gave the Brewers a lead they would not relinquish.
"I mean, the Brewers are a good hitting team," Wheeler said. "It's only a one-run lead in the fourth, and we knew we had a lot of game left. You just come back tomorrow."
Though Friedrich showed off his stuff with eight strikeouts, he allowed nine hits that Colorado would not overcome.
"It's all about consistency, and, as a pitcher, you have to be able to command your stuff and pitch ahead of hitters and that type of thing," Weiss said. "He's got good stuff; he's got a good fastball and a real good breaking ball. He got a lot of swings-and-misses tonight. There's no doubt he's got good stuff."
Colorado had two late opportunities to stay in the game but missed on both. The team put two runners on in the seventh when Will Smith entered the game to face the heart of the Rockies' lineup. Smith struck out Morneau, walked Tulowitzki and struck out Dickerson to end the threat.
Michael McKenry led off the eighth with a double, but Brandon Kintzler retired the next three batters to strand him.
"Certainly nothing has come easy lately," Weiss said. "We had some opportunities late. Smith did a good job coming in and getting out of a jam right there. He pitched us tough that inning."
Scooter Gennett's two-run pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the eighth would bolster the Milwaukee lead, and closer Francisco Rodriguez put the Rockies down in order to end the game.
Colorado catcher Wilin Rosario left the game in the fifth inning with lower back tightness. Weiss said he was day to day and would be re-evaluated before Friday's game.
Caitlin Swieca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.