DENVER -- From the start of Saturday night's 8-3 loss to the Reds at Coors Field, Juan Nicasio was in trouble.
Just when it appeared the Rockies starter had found some consistency -- he allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last three starts -- Nicasio (8-7) showed he still has plenty of room to grow. He had little to celebrate on his 27th birthday, allowing six runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings while striking out four in his worst start since July 30.
It was the Rockies' second loss in six games, moving them to 3-2 on the homestand. Tyler Chatwood will make his long-awaited return Sunday and attempt to hand the Rockies their third straight series win, a feat they have not accomplished since the season's first month.
Nicasio walked the game's leadoff batter on four pitches, struggling to command his fastball all night, and then served up an RBI triple to Brandon Phillips. Joey Votto's groundout scored Phillips, putting the Rockies down, 2-0, by the end of the first inning.
"The first inning it looked like he was trying to get loose almost," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "And then as the game went on, it looked like he got looser and looser; his velocity was starting to climb. But he was laboring through most of the night."
Phillips was a one-man wrecking crew, sending a solo homer over the right-field fence in the third and adding to Nicasio's troubles in the Reds' three-run fifth. The second baseman doubled to left in the fifth to put runners at second and third before Nicasio intentionally walked Jay Bruce, the last batter he faced. Nicasio needed 94 pitches to make it that far, a lack of efficiency once again stepping in the way of a more effective outing. He said his shoulder felt tight early, perhaps a partial explanation for the three hits he gave up in the first.
"I feel like I was commanding my fastball, and I missed a couple pitches with Brandon Phillips. Good hitter and got down in the count," Nicasio said. "I need to throw a strike -- he can hit."
But reliever Wilton Lopez sank the Rockies into an even deeper hole. Before Lopez could throw a pitch, umpires flagged him for a balk -- one Weiss said was clear enough to not argue -- and forced Choo home. Ryan Ludwick then smacked a single to center, two more Reds scoring to give Cincinnati a commanding 6-0 lead.
The Rockies answered meekly in the bottom of that inning, pinch-hitter Jordan Pacheco doubling deep into the right-center field gap to score Charlie Blackmon from first. Corey Dickerson's two-run homer that landed in the second deck of right field in the eighth was Colorado's only other sign of offensive life. Dickerson's third homer came after Charlie Culberson's pinch-hit single through the infield.
The offense looked like it had burned all its fuel in Friday night's 9-6 victory, when it gathered 19 hits. Even Todd Helton, the hero Friday night just one hit away from 2,500 in his career, could not cast a moment of brightness on an otherwise gloomy night, as he finished 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
The crowd of 37,616 climbed to its feet before each of his at-bats, camera phones positioned to snap a moment of Rockies history.
"It would've been a lot cooler if I got a hit, but that's all right," Helton said. "That's this game. The last two days is this game summed up. You can be great one day and a have a hat-trick [three strikeouts] the next. That's just the way it goes. That's why it's so important to keep your emotions in check and show up the next day ready to play."
Weiss said he would consult with Helton about playing a third straight game Sunday, and Helton said he was optimistic he would play Synday and have another shot at history.
Apart from Dickerson's homer, Greg Reynolds (1-2) looked like the starting pitcher Colorado imagined when it took him second overall in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
Reynolds allowed three runs over eight innings, striking out five and not walking a batter. It was his third start for Cincinnati this year, and he earned his first Major League victory since July 2, 2011, when he was still in a Rockies uniform.
Though Reynolds had a 7.47 ERA over 27 games with the Rockies, the right-hander said his familiarity with Coors Field may have provided him a slight edge.
"A little bit, but I hadn't done particularly well here," Reynolds said. "I learned what not to do for sure. But I was definitely more comfortable coming out here now. I feel like I'm a better pitcher now than I was before, and I think that showed today."
Reliever Rob Scahill tossed three innings and allowed the Reds two more insurance runs, Votto with an RBI single in the sixth and Choo adding an RBI double in the eighth.
Jeff Manship, bumped from the starting rotation, closed out the Reds with a hitless ninth.
Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.