Jhoulys Chacin drew mixed reviews for his first start for the Rockies since going on the disabled list in April.
There was the rough start, a 22-pitch first inning in which the Tampa Bay Rays scored three runs. Then came four scoreless innings, another three-run inning in the sixth, and then a perfect seventh before he left in Colorado's 8-3 loss to the Rays on Sunday.
"At the start he probably just had to knock a little rust off," Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. "After that first inning he settled in very nicely. He gave us the length and gave us the chance to win."
Chacin (3-1), who was activated earlier in the day, gave up a season-high six runs, five earned, on eight hits in seven innings. He strained his lower back on April 19 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, though he pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings for the victory before being forced to exit.
"Overall I felt good with no issues. My back felt fine," Chacin said. "I had a rough start, but after that I kept us in the game."
Alex Cobb pitched effectively into the seventh inning, withstanding three solo homers by Colorado to help Tampa Bay earn the victory.
Jose Lobaton, Ryan Roberts and Kelly Johnson each drove in two runs for the Rays. Tampa Bay took two of three and won a series at Coors Field for the first time in four visits.
Cobb (4-2) went 6 2-3 innings and allowed eight hits. A day after hitting a grand slam, rookie Nolan Arenado hit a two-out homer in the seventh that pulled the Rockies within 6-3.
Coming into the game, Cobb had only given up two home runs in his five previous starts. But he wriggled out of trouble in key spots, getting two of his six strikeouts in the sixth after a throwing error put a Rockies baserunner on second with one out.
Lobaton stretched Tampa Bay's lead in the eighth with a two-run single after a second passed ball by catcher Wilin Rosario allowed Evan Longoria to advance to third and James Loney to second.
Tampa Bay jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first. Matt Joyce came home from third on a wild pitch around RBI singles by Loney and Johnson.
"I wasn't throwing strikes," Chacin said. "I wasn't getting my slider and off speed pitches over, but then I settled down."
Michael Cuddyer connected for his seventh home run leading off the second, driving a 2-2 pitch from Cobb into the left field bleachers. Troy Tulowitzki pulled the Rockies within a run when he hit a solo shot leading off the fourth for his seventh of the season.
"We struggled with runners in scoring position," Weiss said. "We hit some home runs, but if nobody hits with runners in scoring position, it's tough.'"
Tampa Bay added three more runs in the sixth. Joyce drew a leadoff walk and went to third when Loney's line shot glanced off leaping second baseman Josh Rutledge's glove for a single. Johnson followed with an RBI single and Loney and Johnson both moved up on a passed ball before Roberts doubled to drive them home for a 6-2 lead.
Rockies first baseman Todd Helton also came off the disabled list after missing the past two weeks because of a left forearm strain.
NOTES: To make room on the roster for Helton and Chacin, the Rockies optioned infielder Ryan Wheeler and right-hander Tyler Chatwood to their Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs. ... The Rockies are off Monday before opening a three game-set against the New York Yankees on Tuesday. It's the Yankees' first trip to Colorado since 2007, when the Rockies swept a three-game set from New York. ... Rosario had two passed balls, but said he wasn't crossed up on either.