Braun belted a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, but it wasn't enough to rescue the slumping Brewers from a 5-4 loss to the Rockies at Miller Park on Thursday and a three-game sweep. It was the Rockies' eighth straight win and the Brewers' fourth straight loss.
At 33-27, the Brewers still own a half-game advantage in the National League Central. But given the one-run margin, they scattered Thursday night pondering the kind of loss that prompted plenty of "what if's?"
What if starter Yovani Gallardo (6-3) or second baseman Casey McGehee had converted consecutive double-play grounders in the second inning? What if Prince Fielder's ground-rule double had not bounced into the stands in the sixth inning, forcing Braun to stop at third? What if the consecutive line drives by Corey Hart and Craig Counsell in the seventh had found gaps instead of defenders' gloves? What if Rockies reliever Manuel Corpas hadn't plucked Jody Gerut's hard comebacker in the eighth?
All of those moments could have either saved or scored a run for the Brewers. Instead, Braun & Co. -- who stranded a runner at third base in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, and were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position before Braun's homer -- were left to ponder their first four-game losing streak since early April.
"We've been on the right end of quite a few of these early on in the year when the team was playing really well," Braun said. "It's a weird game. It seems like when you're playing well, you get all the breaks. When you're not going well like we are right now, you find a way to come up on the short end of games like this."
Rockies starter Aaron Cook (4-2) won after working six-plus innings, while Gallardo took the loss after allowing two runs on three hits and four walks in five innings. Like Dave Bush on Wednesday night, Gallardo's pitch count skyrocketed early. He was already at 50 pitches by the end of a second inning that could have been much worse, when the Rockies took a 1-0 lead.
It also could have been much better. Gallardo walked the first two hitters of the inning before Troy Tulowitzki loaded the bases with a single. Rockies catcher Paul Phillips followed with a comebacker to Gallardo, who shoveled to the plate for one out, but not quick enough to start a double play. Cook followed with another would-be double play grounder that should have ended the inning, but McGehee misplayed a high hop near second base as a run scored.
"Errors are going to happen," Gallardo said. "It's just like pitchers -- sometimes we're going to miss our spot and give up home runs. You can't have an excuse. You still have to go out there and pitch your game."
Ian Stewart scored that run and scored another in the fourth inning, when he led off with a solo home run. The Rockies made it 3-0 in the sixth inning on Tulowitzki's RBI double off reliever Todd Coffey.
Cook blanked the Brewers on six hits through the first six innings before running into trouble in the seventh, when the Brewers loaded the bases with two singles and a walk.
Enter a trio of Rockies relievers and an equal dose of Brewers bad luck. Hart, one of four slumping Milwaukee regulars given the day off, entered the game as a pinch-hitter and lined a rope to center field off reliever Matt Daley, deep enough to score McGehee with the Brewers' first run. Counsell followed with another line drive off Alan Embree, but it went straight to the right fielder. After Colorado called for yet another relief arm, right-hander Joel Peralta, Mike Cameron worked a pinch-hit walk to load the bases for Braun, who struck out.
The Rockies scored what would prove a pair of key insurance runs off Carlos Villanueva in the top of the eighth inning, but the Brewers put the first two runners on base again in the bottom of the frame, when McGehee grounded into a double play and Gerut was retired on a sharp bouncer back to the pitcher's mound. In the ninth, Huston Street notched his 12th save of the season despite allowing Braun's 13th home run.
"It's the job of myself and the coaching staff to continue to stay positive," manager Ken Macha said. "I think the comeback in the ninth will help a little bit. We got the winning run to the plate after being down four runs. With the number of hits we laid out today, I think guys will feel good about themselves when they come in [on Friday]."
"We know we're a better team than how we've performed so far," Braun said. "Hopefully, it's a matter of time, and by the end of the year we should be good."