DENVER -- Even in the Mile High City, baseball remains a game of inches. Give an inch on a Jeff Francis curve that just missed its spot, or take an inch on Jose Reyes' swing on the pitch that just cleared the Coors Field fence, and the Rockies and Marlins could have easily found their fortunes reversed.
Instead, Miami edged Colorado, 6-5, in a taut game Friday night, trading leads and keeping the score razor close throughout, with no lead of more than a run lasting for more than a half-inning.
The Marlins struck early, putting up a run in the first when Gorkys Hernandez singled to right, stole second, and scored on Carlos Lee's double down the left-field line. Rockies starter Jeff Francis hit the next batter, Giancarlo Stanton, but recovered quickly, allowing only a bunt single over the next 3 1/3 innings.
"I got some guys to mis-hit balls early in the count," Francis said. "They ran some ground balls at some infielders. I got lucky on a double play when Reyes popped up a bunt. That allowed me to have a pretty quick inning."
The Rockies took the lead in the interim after a two-run fourth that made the most of a dynamic young lineup. Rookie shortstop Josh Rutledge sparked the rally with a single up the middle, and Dexter Fowler pushed him along with a bunt single to the pitcher. Rookies Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco plated Rutledge and Fowler with respective singles to left and center. Of the Rockies' 12 hits, 11 were singles.
"It's a big yard -- the ball drops in," Eric Young Jr. said. "We'll take hits no matter if it's a long ball or small ball. String them together and score some runs."
Francis could have used an inch bigger yard in the fifth frame. He struggled in his final inning, giving up a leadoff single to John Buck, the first ball hit out of the infield after Lee's first-inning double. After Marlins starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc sacrificed Buck over and Hernandez walked with two outs, Reyes powered a Francis curve off the glove of left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and into the stands for three-run homer to give the Marlins a 4-2 lead.
"I was playing not too deep, so I kind of ran hard to the wall and just barely missed it," Gonzalez said. "It was in my glove. As soon as I hit the wall, the ball came out of my glove, but just barely cleared the wall."
The inch between a highlight reel defensive play and game-changing round-tripper started with Francis' two-strike curve that just missed his spot.
"It wasn't huge, but it was big enough," Francis said of his missed location. "It wasn't a hanger, but it was not the pitch I was trying to throw. It was close. That's what makes it so frustrating. He hit it about as short as you can for it to go over the fence.
"It's just a frustrating night for me, because I felt like I was going to give us a chance to win that game and got two outs in that inning, and I just missed on that pitch and he did his job."
There were no complaints from the Marlins, whose new park boasts the smallest capacity in the Majors, but plays big at sea level compared to the lively action 5,280 feet higher in Denver.
"You got to do it, especially in the field that we play," manager Ozzie Guillen said of Reyes' ability to take advantage of the Coors Field factor. "In the field that we play, that ball would be a fly ball to shortstop. That was a big three-run homer for us."
Colorado quickly rebounded in the bottom of the inning, taking Francis off the hook with its own three-run rally. Jonathan Herrera, pinch-hitting for Francis, drew a leadoff walk, then went first to third on a high pop single to shallow center from Young.
Young stole second, and Rutledge knocked Herrera home with an infield single to short. After Fowler sacrificed, Gonzalez drove in a run with a grounder to third, and Rosario reclaimed the lead with a run-scoring single up the middle.
"If you hit 11 singles and you have one extra-base hit and you have 12 [hits] on the night, you know there was some opportunity there to actually push some extra runs across," manager Jim Tracy said. "But once we got them out there, we couldn't get that one extra hit that could have changed the complexion of the game."
Reliable reliever Josh Roenicke had a rough outing, yielding a towering 474 leadoff homer to Stanton -- the longest of the season at Coors Field -- to even the score, then lost the lead when Donovan Solano tripled on a ball that hit the center-field wall on a bounce, and he scored on a Buck double deep into the right-center alley.
Roenicke entered the season with 69 2/3 innings in parts of four seasons in the Majors, but he has 72 2/3 so far this season, leading all Major League relievers.
"It's very possible," Tracy said when asked if Roenicke was starting to show fatigue. "He's had a pretty good workload. We were looking for some outs from him, but tonight wasn't his night. We were hoping it was going to go a couple of innings, but it turned into a third of an inning."
The loss put the skids on a four-game Rockies winning streak. It marked the fourth in the last five games that Colorado needed seven runs to win, and the first time in the stretch the Rockies weren't able to complete the job.
"That's our team," Francis said of their ability to battle. "When I first got here and we were losing a lot, we weren't in a lot of games. If we can keep it close in those games, we're going to be winning a lot more."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.