- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

SAN DIEGO (AP) - It was a small but important step for Colorado’s Jorge De La Rosa.

Fresh off a demotion to the bullpen after three subpar performances, the former 16-game winner was suddenly thrust back out to the mound Wednesday night and turned in an encouraging performance in Colorado’s 4-2 loss to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night.

Andrew Cashner pitched well into the eighth inning and Chris Denorfia drove in two runs to lead San Diego Padres to the victory.

Though De La Rosa (0-3) couldn’t keep the Rockies from dropping to 3-7 on the road, the lefty’s outing was encouraging.

“I think it was a solid outing by Jorge,” Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. “You pitch like that, he gives you a chance to win. But there’s not a lot of margin for error when you have Cashner on the other side.”

De La Rosa pitched a season-high six innings, allowing three runs - two earned - and seven hits.

“I felt good but it doesn’t matter because we still lost,” De La Rosa said. “It wasn’t good enough. Things didn’t go the way we wanted.”

De La Rosa, demoted to the bullpen after his last start, was inserted back into the starting rotation after Brett Anderson fractured a finger Saturday. De La Rosa, who was 16-6 last season, had surrendered 15 runs in his first three starts before Wednesday night.

Cashner (2-1) wasn’t nearly as sharp as he was in his previous start when he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against Detroit on Friday before settling for a one-hitter with a career-best 11 strikeouts. But the righty was resourceful as he consistently pitched his way out of trouble. He held the Rockies hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Cashner gave up nine hits overall and allowed two runs - one earned - with five strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings. It was the 10th consecutive start in which Cashner has allowed two runs or less.

“He’s a competitor, man, and he is not afraid to come at you,” Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said. “He is always competing. His fastball moves a lot and it moves late. It looks good and it runs in on you and you get jammed.”

Justin Morneau went 3 for 3 and drove in both Rockies runs with a solo homer and a sacrifice fly. But Colorado missed a golden chance while trailing 3-1 in the sixth inning.

With one out, the Rockies loaded the bases on three straight singles. But Cashner bore down and got Jordan Pacheco to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

“You don’t get a lot of opportunities against a guy like that,” Weiss said. “You hope someone gets a big hit or you get one to drop.”

Huston Street pitched the ninth for his fifth save.

San Diego reached De La Rosa for a pair of runs in the fifth inning to take the lead.

Alexi Amarista, who replaced the injured Chase Headley at third base, reached on an infield hit with one out. Cashner sacrificed him to second and Amarista went to third on Everth Cabrera’s infield single. Amarista then scored on Pacheco’s passed ball and Denorfia hit an RBI double for a 3-1 lead.

Denorfia added a run-scoring single in the seventh.

Cabrera, who sat out Tuesday night with a sore knee, extended his hitting streak to eight games.

Rookie Tommy Medica tied the game at 1 with a solo homer in the second inning after Morneau put the Rockies ahead in the top of inning when he hit a solo shot into the beach beyond the center-field fence.

NOTES: De La Rosa came in with a 3-0 record in his last four starts at Petco Park. He hadn’t lost to the Padres in any ballpark in nearly four years. … Headley sat out with a right biceps he strained in the batting cage before Tuesday night’s game. He is listed as day to day. … Anderson is scheduled to have surgery Thursday to repair his fractured left index finger. … Rockies LHP Franklin Morales (0-1, 6.39) replaces Anderson in the starting rotation and will face San Diego RHP Ian Kennedy (1-2, 4.24) in the series finale Thursday.

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