DENVER -- In 20 years of baseball in the Mile High City, there has been no shortage of theories about how to tame high-altitude hitters. Before Wednesday's series finale with the Rockies, manager Bud Black warned of the big inning at Coors Field, which he cautioned is often caused by "two walks and a home run."
In a game featuring four home runs in the first six innings, the walks amounted to pocket change. On the strength of a five-run second and a seven-double attack, the Rockies got the best of the Padres, taking the rubber match, 8-4.
Chase Headley got the Padres on the board in the first inning, knocking a two-out solo shot over the left-field fence. It was the first of two homers for Headley, who was responsible for the Friars' first three runs in the game's first six innings.
"Good night for Chase, no doubt," Black said. "Two opposite field home runs and a nice, crisp single to right-center. He's one of the guys on our club that we can count on. He's been dependable now for a couple years as far as a guy that can get on base and hit for average. You're starting to see the swings that he can produce."
The Rockies erased Headley's lead with a big inning in the bottom of the second, when Clayton Richard's one-out walk to Todd Helton sparked a five-run rally. Wilin Rosario and Chris Nelson followed with back-to-back doubles and Jonathan Herrera drove a two-run shot into the right-field bullpen. Marco Scutaro and Dexter Fowler hit another pair of back-to-back two-baggers to cap the rally.
"In the second inning, he got the fastball up over the plate," Black said of Richard. "And when you get the ball up over the plate in this park and the Rockies are able to put good wood on it and get it in the air, you saw the results. They got some extra-base hits and Herrera got the home run. When a pitcher like Clayton gets the ball up, his ball flattens out. He gets it down, the ball sinks. It was a classic case of that."
Richard was otherwise effective on the mound, allowing only one other hit in the game until a two-run fifth frame. He induced seven groundball outs in the first, third, and fourth, but Richard fell directly into the trap Black warned of in the fifth, walking Carlos Gonzalez with one out to set up a two-run round-tripper from Michael Cuddyer that nearly hit the concourse high above the left-field fence.
Richard lasted 5 1/3 innings and yielded eight runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out two. He fell to 0-3 with a 9.00 in five starts at Coors Field, but he dismissed any notion that he endures unusual suffering when pitching on the Rockies' home turf.
"I think that's looking too much into pitching here," Richard said. "If I was pitching in San Diego, it would have been a bad night the way I was throwing."
The bullpen has been a bright spot for the Padres, with relievers posting a 2.30 ERA in 43 innings, while starters have thrown 66 1/3 innings for a 4.61 mark in the 12 games leading up to Wednesday. Still, the Padres have gone to their 'pen for an average of 3 1/2 innings each game, while the starters have averaged only 5 1/2.
"When we sent him back out there in the sixth, we were hoping he could get us through seven innings and clean up our bullpen," Black said. "Our bullpen's been taxed a little bit. Josh [Spence] came in and did a nice job. [Micah Owings pitched] a clean eighth. It would have been really good for our 'pen if Clayton went seven."
Aside from Headley touching second as he circled the bases in the first, Nicasio didn't allow a Friar to set foot on second until Will Venable's one-out double to center in the sixth. Headley's second homer -- in another two-out at-bat -- brought the Padres within four.
"I'm not going up there trying to hit home runs, but I do think there's a lot more power in there that really hasn't been shown the last couple years," Headley said. "I wanted to get my swing to where at least when I hit the ball the way I'm capable of, it's going to have a chance to leave the ballpark."
Headley hit his third and fourth homers of the season off Nicasio, matching his total from 113 games last year. In the first, Nicasio caught him off guard with a first pitch changeup on the paint on the outside part of the plate, then got the count to 0-2 with a fastball in the same location before Headley, sitting on fastball, drilled his 0-2 offering out of the park.
The second homer came on a 2-1 count, and it was an 84-mph changeup that Headley sent to the stands.
"I kind of had a plan going up there," Headley said. "With nobody on first, runner on third, two outs, I'd had some pretty good swings off him. I kind of thought he may try to get me out with offspeed, so I was looking there."
San Diego inched closer in the seventh, pushing a run across with a pair of singles, a walk and a bases-loaded strikeout on a wild pitch, but they finished their road trip 1-5, and have yet to win a series this season.
"We have to play a better all-around game," Black said. "Tonight, we didn't pitch well from the starting pitching side. Starting pitching is key. There's no doubt about it. If you have five guys who keep you in games, more likely than not, if you get a big hit here and there, you're going to win some games. We just couldn't climb back into this one. We fought, but we just couldn't close it against Nicasio."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.