It was a stunning turn for the worse for a Brewers team coming off an 8-1 homestand and whose relief corps had not allowed a run in their last 13 1/3 innings.
"It turned around fast, but they were at the part of their lineup, with the top [part of] their order coming up, that it would be the place if they could do it," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "And they did it."
They did it with another Brewers reliever, Carlos Villanueva, watching from the bench after a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh inning in which he struck out two batters. Villanueva would have been sent back out for the eighth, according to Yost, had the Brewers pushed across one more run.
Instead, they stranded a runner at third base with no outs in the seventh inning and left runners at first and second with one out in the eighth. With a 4-1 lead and the save situation in order, Yost handed the ball to Mota.
"Mota's been our eighth-inning pitcher for the majority of the year," Yost said. "It was the eighth inning, we went to our eighth-inning pitcher."
Before that inning, the Brewers appeared to be cruising to what would have been their seventh straight win and their longest winning streak since April 28-May 5, 2005. Ben Sheets finally conquered the thin air at Coors Field and delivered six innings of one-run ball, good for Milwaukee's seventh consecutive "quality start" of six or more innings with three or fewer earned runs.
Russell Branyan and J.J. Hardy hit back-to-back solo home runs off Colorado starter Ubaldo Jimenez in the fifth inning to end Jimenez's streak of 12 consecutive batters retired and snap a 1-1 tie. Jason Kendall added insurance with an RBI triple with nobody out in the sixth inning that snapped Kendall's 0-for-13 and 1-for-27 droughts, but was stranded at third base.
Gabe Kapler started in center field for the Brewers and also drove in a run, but he was busy in the outfield in the eighth as the Rockies took their first lead of the night.
Jonathan Herrera and Ryan Spilborghs led off with singles against Mota. Spilborghs' hit barely eluded diving Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks up the middle.
"Single, single, here it comes," Yost said.
Todd Helton followed with a booming double to straightaway center field that got over Kapler's head. Garrett Atkins followed with a triple to right-center that Kapler just missed with a diving effort, tying the game at 4. Kapler made his second consecutive start in center in place of slumping Gold Glover Mike Cameron.
Yost brought in left-hander Brian Shouse to face Hawpe, the Rockies right fielder who earlier in the day returned from the disabled list. Shouse had surrendered one home run in 38 at-bats against lefties, but he served one up to Hawpe, a two-run shot for a 6-4 Rockies lead.
"Brad is back," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "There's times you've got to believe in what you believe and put him out there. What a pretty swing he put on it. That's got to be a big boost for his confidence."
Said Yost: "We had the right guys out there. We had the guys we wanted out there. When that happens, at least you know that they beat your best."
Entering Friday, Brewers relievers had a 1.03 ERA over the last 13 games.
"It's Coors Field. Nothing here shocks me," said Sheets, after seeing his seventh win slip away. "I've given up big innings here and I've seen them given up. With the humidor, whatever they want to call it, it's still a hard place to pitch, I think."
Sheets entered the night 1-2 with an 8.84 ERA in his three previous Mile High starts, and once again couldn't get his signature curveball to do its thing. Sheets surrendered three Rockies hits in the first two innings, including Jeff Baker's RBI double, all on breaking balls.
"They can say it breaks all they want," Sheets said. "I know when I throw a good breaking ball, and it doesn't break [here]. ... I had a good fastball, a good two-seamer today. I was keeping it down and getting them to hit it into the ground."
He got the Brewers through six, and Villanueva was dominant in the seventh. Villanueva got the first out on a fly ball, then struck out pinch-hitter Omar Quintanilla and outfielder Willy Taveras.
In the Brewers' half of the eighth inning, Corey Hart hit a one-out double and winning pitcher Manuel Corpas (1-3) intentionally walked Branyan. Hardy grounded into an inning-ending double play that prompted the call for Mota.
"Mota has been good all year. It happens," Villanueva said. "We need to stick with doing what we've been doing, the consistency of it. Everybody can have bad days."