It was on that caked dirt that the Rockies caught two huge breaks to win their interleague series opener against the team that popped the champagne on its 2007 World Series title the last time they came to town.
Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes, subbing for injured star Troy Tulowitzki, cheated to his right and snared Mike Lowell's hard-hit grounder in the hole, rolled and fired to first to beat the runner slowed by an ailing hip for the final out.
Barmes had to slide when the ball took a bad hop at the last moment, just like the one Colorado's Ryan Spilborghs hit in the eighth that took a wicked hop over shortstop Marco Scutaro's head just as he was about to scoop it up for an inning-ending double play.
That allowed Todd Helton to score what turned out to be the decisive run.
"My lucky hit? That was the ghost of 'Tulo's mullet coming into play. His locket of hair was there," Spilborghs cracked. "I wish I would have hit a line drive up the middle and made it simple, but that's how baseball works and I'll take it."
Racing in from left field, Spilborghs had a close-up view of Barmes' big play in the ninth.
"My first thought that came to my mind was 'That was sick"' Spilborghs said. "We knew Lowell wasn't running so well, so we were all yelling, 'Take your time and just make a good throw.' And he did."
With that gold-star play, Matt Belisle earned his first save since July 4, 2005, for Cincinnati at San Francisco.
Jhoulys Chacin (4-6) walked five and allowed four singles in 6 2/3 scoreless innings for Colorado. Lester lost for the first time since April 18 despite allowing just one earned run and six hits -- all singles -- in six spectacular innings.
Barmes said he'd never seen a bad hop at Coors Field like the one Spilborghs' grounder took over Scutaro's head. But he said the early start and sun beating down on the infield conspired to make defense an adventure.
"It was just beating on the infield and it usually doesn't dry up like that for a night game," said Barmes, noting some spots stayed damp early on and got chewed up. "Then, when it got hard all over the field, there were some pretty good divots.
"That's baseball," Barmes said. "It's nice to have one of those hops go our way."
The Rockies haven't caught many breaks this season.
They got another in the ninth when Lowell's ball nearly scooted past Barmes before he snared it on the dive.
"I just wanted to go over there and give him a huge hug, which I did later on," said Belisle, who gave up a one-out RBI single to Mike Cameron.
"I saw the ball jump a little bit," Belisle said. "He had to throw a great backhand on it and as soon as he rolled and was able to get rid of it -- Lowell is not the quickest but can get down there, OK? -- I knew we had a shot. Just throw it on the ground anywhere near our vacuum cleaner first baseman."
Boston had won six straight and Lester (8-3) had won eight in a row. He was unbeaten in his previous 11 starts.
The Red Sox also loaded the bases against Chacin in the third. Chacin threw three straight balls to Victor Martinez, then got him on a grounder to second on a full-count fastball to strand three.
"Tough one to lose," Lester said. "Their guy outpitched me. I gave up six singles. Not one of them was hit hard. It's National League baseball. Hopefully, I don't have to deal with it again."
Lester only ran into trouble in the fifth, when the Rockies put runners at first and second with two outs. Helton, mired in a season-long funk, drove a breaking ball into right field to score Chris Nelson, who led off with a single for his first major league hit.
"I haven't done much to help us win this year, so it was good to get a hit when it mattered," Helton said.
The Rockies and Red Sox, who fell to 10-3 in interleague play, continue their three-game series with Ubaldo Jimenez (13-1), who is off to the best start by a pitcher since Roger Clemens went 14-0 in 1986, facing John Lackey (8-3) on Wednesday night.
"It doesn't get any easier," Red Sox manager Terry Francona sighed.
- Huston Street (shoulder, groin) was activated before the game, but Rockies manager Jim Tracy is easing him back into the closer's role because he's missed the entire season. Tracy also wanted to give his current closer, Manny Corpas, another day off.