DENVER -- When you're 22 years old and pitching in the major leagues, every outing is an opportunity to learn something new.

But Matt Cain wasn't sure what lesson he could take out of the shortest start of his big-league career in a 7-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Monday -- especially when he began it with some of the hardest, nastiest stuff he's had all season.

Maybe his catcher, Bengie Molina, gave him the best advice.

"The only way he can learn from this is to turn the page," said Molina, after the Rockies knocked out Cain in a seven-run third inning. "He needs to straight-up forget about this. He's had so many good outings for us all year long. He has a great mind. He has to come back, do his thing and he'll be fine."

Brad Hawpe hit a first-pitch curveball for a two-run single that gave Colorado a 4-1 lead and drove Cain to the bench. It was just Cain's 69th pitch of the game but his 44th in the third inning, and manager Bruce Bochy felt compelled to intervene.

"You risk an injury with a guy throwing that many pitches," Bochy said.

Cain's cool demeanor left him as he descended the dugout steps. In an uncharacteristic outburst, he flung his glove, slammed his hat and rubbed a towel on his face so hard that he might have given himself a rug burn.

Pat Misch allowed two inherited runners to score, leaving Cain with a linescore of 2ยช innings and six earned runs.

Cain (7-14) had a few hours to consider his day before speaking with reporters.

"It's almost ... I still don't really know what happened," he said. "I was making good pitches, and they were taking pitches that were close."

Cain was careful not to criticize home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman, but he wanted several pitches that weren't called strikes. Among them was an 0-2 breaking ball to Kazuo Matsui that would have changed the inning.

"You always want it," Cain said. "I'm trying to look past this start, build off what I did the first two innings and not let this ruin the rest of this month."

The first two innings were electric, as Cain struck out four of seven batters and appeared set to dominate the Rockies again. He was 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in four starts against them this season. Eleven of his 66 career starts have come against Colorado, and prior to Monday, he held them to two runs or fewer in all but one game.

"Cain is a terrific pitcher," Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday said. "Any time you can get him out of a game, you feel better about your chances."

The Rockies can thank their starting pitcher for getting the ball rolling. Jeff Francis worked Cain for a nine-pitch at-bat, fouling off four with two strikes, before driving a double just beyond the reach of right fielder Nate Schierholtz.

Willy Taveras singled, Matsui dumped a single in front of Schierholtz, and Holliday hit a sacrifice fly for the second out. Todd Helton and Geoff Atkins walked to load the bases and set up Hawpe's single.

The Giants had their own frustrations with Francis (15-6), who pitched a shutout last week in San Francisco and beat them for the third straight time. Molina crushed a solo homer and Kevin Frandsen had a run-scoring single to cap a 12-pitch at-bat that knocked Francis from the game in the sixth inning.

"We fought hard, we just got down a little too far," Bochy said. "It's a shame we couldn't get Cain out of that inning. ... Sometimes it happens you can't get that last out."

Contact Andrew Baggarly at abaggarly@mercurynews.com.

ROCKIES 7, GIANTS 4

  • TODAY: Giants (Tim Lincecum 7-4) at Rockies (Franklin Morales 0-2), 5:35 p.m. TV: FSNBA. Radio: 680-AM