TORONTO — The number stared back from the third-deck facade, above the Orange Julius sign on the right-field fence.

It mocked the Rockies. Couldn't manager Walt Weiss squeeze a few more pitches out of starter Jorge De La Rosa? He allowed just one hit through seven innings. He didn't labor. He sat at 95 pitches — the scoreboard read in bold white numbers — but was given the hook because he bruised his left thumb throwing sinking fastballs.

"My hands hate me right now," said De La Rosa, who dealt with a finger blister in his previous two starts. "It's tough. It happened in the fourth, and it became kind of numb. It's frustrating."

With De La Rosa reduced to a spectator, reliever Matt Belisle stood on the mound with the crowd on its feet and failed in the 2-0 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

On a night that featured De La Rosa and Toronto's Josh Johnson stringing together enough zeroes for a Powerball prize, Maicer Izturis' blooper over shortstop hit the jackpot Monday.

De La Rosa's gem quickly lost its luster in the eighth in the hands of the slumping Belisle. Rajai Davis belted a hanging slider, Colby Rasmus walked and a swinging bunt left runners at second and third. The Rockies elected not to walk Izturis — "I didn't really think about that because we were going to be dealing with the top of the order," manager Walt Weiss said — and he fisted a fastball 120 feet into left field.

"It was poor execution to get to Izturis. I had struggles commanding the ball. There's no excuses," said Belisle, who has allowed six runs in nine innings of work this month. "I didn't do my job."

Good pitching is critical to the Rockies remaining afloat without Troy Tulowitzki, who was enjoying an MVP-type season. Getting closer Rafael Betancourt back will help fortify the bullpen and perhaps ease Belisle's workload.

He has not been sharp, though he insisted that his arm felt fine Monday.

Matt Belisle of the Rockies wipes his face during inter-league action against the Toronto Blue Jays. More photos.
Matt Belisle of the Rockies wipes his face during inter-league action against the Toronto Blue Jays. More photos. (Brad White, Getty Images)

Betancourt will throw a side session Tuesday, then face live hitters Friday and again next week in Boston in hopes of returning during the next homestand. The Rockies' relievers own a 4.66 ERA in 56 innings in June, impacted by abbreviated starts.

That, however, wasn't the case Monday. De La Rosa was brilliant. His changeup hadn't been this good since elbow surgery, his slider was biting, and his fastball ranged from 91 to 94 miles per hour.

He still watched the Rockies suffer a heart-in-a-blender loss to start a critical nine-game, East Coast road trip. He believes the thumb — which became uncomfortable during the final two innings — will not affect his next outing. That start has been pushed back to Sunday to accommodate Roy Oswalt's expected debut Thursday at Washington.

The box score says that Belisle lost, that Izturis delivered. And it's true, but it barely illuminates where this outcome was decided. The Rockies had eight opportunities with runners in scoring position and couldn't produce a single hit. The most damaging at-bats came from Todd Helton.

Facing Johnson, who has suffered through a lost season because of injuries and lacking run support, Helton skied a popup to shortstop to end the sixth inning with runners on first and third. Johnson finished with 10 strikeouts, reaching 94 miles per hour and showing why he could be a valuable trade chip in July if healthy.

Even more painful, Helton barely managed contact against left-handed reliever Brett Cecil, grounding weakly to second with the bases loaded to kill an eighth-inning uprising.

"It was one of those games where it felt like the team that scored first was going to win," Weiss said. "We had our chances."

Troy E. Renck: 303-954-1294, trenck@denverpost.com or twitter.com/troyrenck


COLORADO AT TORONTO

Rockies' Jeff Francis (2-4, 5.87 ERA) vs. Blue Jays' Esmil Rogers (2-2, 3.21), 5:07 p.m. Tuesday, ROOT; 850 AM

Jeff Francis is arguably the most book-smart player in Rockies history. He knows physics, understands numbers. No one needs to tell the left-hander that the Rockies will soon not have enough chairs for all the members of the rotation. Roy Oswalt will pitch this week. At whose expense is the only question. Francis earned another start with a solid performance against the Nationals. He could stay for a few more with another good game, buying time for Drew Pomeranz in Triple-A (he's close after fanning 11 on Sunday). Esmil Rogers, an erstwhile Rockie, worked a season-high seven innings as a spot starter. The right-hander typically struggles the second time through the lineup, when he loses command of his fastball.

Upcoming Pitching Matchups

Wednesday: Rockies' Juan Nicasio (4-2, 4.86 ERA) at Blue Jays' Mark Buehrle (3-4, 4.66), 5:07 p.m., ROOT

Thursday: Rockies' Tyler Chatwood (4-1, 2.33) at Naionals' Jordan Zimmerman (9-3, 2.44), 5:05 p.m., ROOT

Friday: Rockies' Jhoulys Chacin (5-3, 4.26) at Nationals' Stephen Strasburg (3-6, 2.50), 5:05 ROOT

Troy E. Renck, The Denver Post