DENVER -- The Mets came into Coors Field Thursday as winners of five of their last six and seven of their last nine, but manager Terry Collins knew they would need to bring their "A" game to beat what he called a "red-hot" Rockies lineup. The "A" stuff showed up too late, however, as the Mets fell, 7-4, to open the four-game set.
New York stumbled out of the gate, with the lineup managing only three hits in the first seven innings, and starter Bartolo Colon turned in his shortest outing of the year, leaving with two outs in the fifth inning with seven runs on his line.
"My two-seamer wasn't going where I wanted it to go," Colon said through an interpreter. "I didn't have any command from the first inning on. I had no control of where the ball was going. The weather didn't bother me. The cold didn't bother me. I've never had much luck in this stadium."
Travis d'Arnaud gave the Mets a lift with a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth, but the damage had already been done.
"That was big that in the last two innings we scored four runs," d'Arnaud said. "It was big that the bullpen came in and they had holds. Unfortunately, what happened in the beginning of the game -- what can you do?"
Juan Lagares was another bright spot, returning to center field after a stint on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring. Lagares led off the first frame with a double to left off Juan Nicasio, but was erased when David Wright's liner to short resulted in an inning-ending double play.
"It felt good," Lagares said of his first big league at-bat in two weeks. "I know he likes to throw a lot of fastballs, so I went out there looking for that pitch."
Lagares also plated the Mets' first run, driving his second double of the game to right field in the eighth inning to score Bobby Abreu, who had walked with two outs as a pinch-hitter for relief pitcher Gonzalez Germen.
"It's good to have Juan back," Collins said. "Two big hits for us. The thing I liked is he pulled one ball and one ball he went the other way with it. He's not a one-dimensional guy by any means. He's going to be a real good player. By the end of this year, he's going to set himself apart from a lot of people."
After Lagares' double in the first, the Mets were silenced by Nicasio, who scattered two more hits as he finished seven innings. As elusive as Colon's command was, Nicasio showed the Mets his best stuff.
"I threw a lot of sliders for strikes," Nicasio said. "But today I was good because I had command of my fastball first, down in the zone. When I'm pitching well, I have command of my fastball down."
The Rockies got to Colon in the first inning, as Carlos Gonzalez launched a two-out, full-count offering off the back wall of the right-field bullpen for a solo homer.
Colorado added runs in three of the next four innings, with Nicasio plating two with a two-out single to right in the second, the third consecutive two-out single off Colon in the inning.
"[He left] a few pitches over the middle of the plate, and their team's been swinging the bat really well," Colon's battery mate d'Arnaud said. "They proved that tonight."
Colon struggled again in the fourth, issuing a leadoff walk, a bunt single and a hit batsman to load the bases before Nicasio drove home his third run of the night with a hard liner for a sacrifice fly to center.
"I never thought a pitcher was going to hit the ball that hard," Lagares said. "Thank God I was ready, because if I missed that one everybody would have scored."
Charlie Blackmon followed with a run-scoring single and Nolan Arenado brought the third run home with another sac fly.
Colon's outing came to an end in the fifth after yielding an RBI triple to Corey Dickerson. The 4 2/3 innings marked the first time this season a Mets starter didn't complete at least five innings.
"This is a park where you've got to make pitches or you're going to get hurt," Collins said. "They can put a lot of hits together. You look on that board and there are a lot of pretty good hitters in their lineup. This is one of those nights when [Colon] just didn't have his stuff."
The Mets' bullpen offered 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief from Jeurys Familia, Germen and Jose Valverde.
"They have actually pitched very well here," Collins said of his 'pen. "Germen made some good pitches. Familia, if he does what he did tonight, and that is command his stuff, he's going to get outs. He's got outstanding stuff. He probably has the best pure stuff in the bullpen, bar none."
Ultimately, the Mets came up with too little, too late. The breaks went against them as they drilled balls right at Rockies fielders, and as encouraging as their late charge was, the string of zeros they posted against Nicasio left them in a hole they couldn't climb out of.
"He made good pitches," Lagares said. "He worked both sides of the plate really well. He threw fastball, slider. We hit some balls hard. We can be positive for tomorrow."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.