MILWAUKEE — Three outs separated the Milwaukee Brewers from their fifth straight win and a four-game lead in the National League Central.
Instead of turning a gem from Yovani Gallardo into a victory, closer Francisco Rodriguez allowed three runs on four hits in the top of the ninth inning, as the Brewers suffered a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss to the New York Mets at Miller Park on Friday night.
"It is frustrating," Rodriguez said. "When you don’t get your job done, it is frustrating, definitely. When you let your team and everybody down, it is frustrating. Fortunately it is not my first rodeo.
"It’s not my first one, and it won’t be my last one. That’s reality. I just have to bounce back and make sure I’m ready tomorrow night."
On to try for his 30th save of the season, Rodriguez allowed a first-pitch double to Daniel Murphy to start the ninth. David Wright followed with a single to left to score Murphy and cut Milwaukee’s lead to 2-1.
One pitch later, Lucas Duda connected on a 91-mph fastball from Rodriguez for a two-run home run. In the blink of an eye, the Brewers went from up 2-0 to down 3-2.
"They jumped me right away," Rodriguez said. "First-pitch double. Wright put together a great at-bat. First-pitch homer and first-pitch base hit right up the middle. They came out swinging. Everything was up and out over the plate. Just bury it. There’s nothing much I can do about it."
The blown save — Rodriguez’s fourth of the season — spoiled what might have been Gallardo’s best start of the season. Allowing just four hits and striking out eight with no walks, Gallardo tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings before giving way to Will Smith for the final out of the eighth.
Gallardo appeared on his way to his first win since June 19 in Arizona before the Mets rallied off Rodriguez.
"Frankie’s done a great job for us all year," manager Ron Roenicke said. "You feel good with Frankie going in there with a two-run lead, and he just didn’t get it done today.
"He wasn’t locating his fastball, and these guys are pretty good fastball hitters."
Trailing 3-2, the Brewers got their leadoff hitter on in the bottom of the ninth when pinch-hitter Jonathan Lucroy drew a walk off Mets closer Jenrry Mejia.
Logan Schafer was called upon to sacrifice Lucroy into scoring position, but he struck out after bunting foul with two strikes.
"I think he’s got a lot better chance to get down a bunt than he does get a base hit," Roenicke said as to why he left the bunt on with two strikes.
Mets starter Zack Wheeler had his good stuff from the start Friday, overpowering Brewers hitters with a upper-90s fastball with a good breaking ball and curveball. Milwaukee got a gift of a run in the sixth thanks to a Murphy error and added on another on a Carlos Gomez solo homer in the seventh.
Gallardo took the lead through a season-high 7 2/3 innings, as the Brewers seemed in good shape to gain a game in the division with both St. Louis and Pittsburgh losing.
"I felt good," Gallardo said. "I think I was able to keep the ball down to both sides of the plate. Had a pretty good curveball working. I was able to throw it for strikes and for put-away pitches whenever I needed."
Since beginning the season with a 19-inning scoreless streak, Rodriguez has a 5.08 ERA over his last 30 1/3 innings. He’s allowed six earned runs in seven innings in July for a 7.71 ERA, but Rodriguez still remains tied for third in baseball with 29 saves.
Rodriguez, who is usually the one picking up a down-trodden reliever after a rough outing, had plenty of support in the Brewers clubhouse after the loss.
"That’s a good thing — everybody has each other’s back," Rodriguez said. "That’s something really comfortable to have. If somebody failed that night, the guys make sure the next day they pick it up.
"I’m looking for a little redemption. Hopefully the opportunity comes tomorrow again."