White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski hit a tie-breaking single to center field with two outs in the ninth inning, saddling Hoffman with his first run of the year and the Brewers with a 5-4 loss at sold-out Miller Park on Sunday.
Brewers manager Ken Macha thought Hoffman "gave in a little bit" by grooving Pierzynski a 3-0 fastball, but it was a rare mistake for a pitcher who had been perfect in 18 appearances before Sunday. Hoffman was one out away from setting a franchise record for a reliever established by Earl Stephenson in 1972 when the 41-year-old Hoffman was in preschool.
That bit of trivia did not exactly provide solace.
"The biggest statistic you have to worry about is that was a loss for the team," Hoffman said.
Corey Hart continued his resurgence with his first multi-homer game this season, and Casey McGehee hit his first Major League home run and scored twice, falling just a triple short of the cycle. The Brewers nonetheless lost for the sixth time in their last seven games, and all but one of those losses were decided by one or two runs.
Brewers starter Braden Looper was spotted leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but suffered a lapse in the third and fourth innings that allowed the Sox to take the lead. Chicago starter Mark Buehrle, who was 3-for-36 at the plate before his third-inning at-bat on Sunday, blasted his first career home run with a solo shot to right-center field that tied the game at 1.
The Sox added three runs in the fourth with a rally that began when Looper plunked Brian Anderson in the back with a pitch. Chris Getz singled before No. 8 hitter Gordon Beckham, hitting .097 entering play, lined a 2-2 pitch to the right-field corner for a two-run double and a 3-2 lead. Former Brewer Scott Podsednik followed, two batters after that, with a single that made it 4-2.
"It's like I lost it for an inning and a half, and that's what I'm mad about," Looper said. "All I can do is control myself and my pitches, and to not be able to make the adjustment quick enough is frustrating. I started with two good innings and finished with two good innings.
"We should have won that game. I should have pitched better."
Hart brought the Brewers back with a solo home run in the fourth inning and another in the sixth. Buehrle surrendered three home runs in a game for the first time since September 2006, and Hart notched his first multi-homer game since June 27 of last season at Minnesota. It was his first at Miller Park since Aug. 2, 2007, against the Mets.
"It would have been nice if one of them had come in the ninth, and we could have continued the game," Hart said. "It's nice to feel good at the plate, but it's tough to be too happy when you lose the ballgame."
Starters Buehrle and Looper pitched to a draw, working six innings apiece while allowing four runs on seven hits. Winning pitcher Matt Thornton (4-1) retired both Brewers hitters he faced in the bottom of the eighth inning before Hoffman took the mound with the game tied at 4 in the ninth.
Hoffman retired Beckham to start the inning to set up a showdown with pinch-hitter Jim Thome that matched a closer with 569 saves against a slugger with 553 home runs. Thome surprised the 41,586 fans in the stands -- and Hoffman -- by squaring to bunt.
He fouled off the first attempt, then showed bunt twice more while Hoffman threw four consecutive pitches out of the strike zone.
"I wouldn't say it threw me off, but I was definitely as surprised as everybody in the ballpark that he tried to do that," Hoffman said. "That's the type of player he is; he'll do whatever he can to help his ballclub. You can't walk him there, either."
Podsednik pushed Clayton Richard, who pinch-ran for Thome, into scoring position with a single. Hoffman retired Alexei Ramirez on a fly ball to center field, but then fell behind, 3-0, to the dangerous Pierzynski.
Hoffman grooved a fastball, and Pierzynski got just enough.
"I got a little bullish with not giving in, but if you're going to do that, you have to make sure it's a better pitch," Hoffman said. "A.J. is a tough guy to get out in general. The ball stopped before it got to [center fielder Mike Cameron], so he didn't even have a chance to make a play at home."
Hoffman considered showing Pierzynski ball four to load the bases for the on-deck hitter. Up next was Josh Fields, who replaced the even more dangerous Paul Konerko as a pinch-runner in the previous inning.
"You obviously go through the scenario in your head," said Hoffman, "but I don't think you get anywhere by backing off and trying to be too smart about it."
Hoffman escaped further damage in the inning, but walked off the field with an ERA (it's 0.47) for the first time this season.
"You start assuming that the guy is going to go 1-2-3 every time," said McGehee. "You have to tip your hat to [the White Sox]. They took what was given them. None of those balls were smoked. I'm sure Trevor has been in every situation you can imagine, and he's going to be fine. He'll be the Trevor Hoffman we're all used to seeing."
Said Looper: "He's been outstanding. You figured it would end eventually, but you want him to keep going."
Sox closer Bobby Jenks pitched the bottom of the ninth inning for his 14th save. Hart nearly hit a slider for home run No. 3, but connected too near the end of the bat and instead flew out to left field.
The Brewers will try to regroup in Cleveland after a 1-5 homestand.
"This was a tough homestand, a lot of one-run games," Macha said. "Guys fought hard all the way to the end of the games, and the losses are just as tough for us as for our fans."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.