MILWAUKEE -- Of all the things that have gone wrong this season for the Milwaukee Brewers, one thing that always went right was the ninth inning.
Until Saturday night, that is.
One out away from a one-run victory, the Brewers were stunned when pinch hitter Hank Conger blasted a two-run home run off closer Jim Henderson in the ninth inning to send the Los Angeles Angels to a 6-5 interleague victory at Miller Park.
The Brewers had been the only team in the majors not to lose a game when leading after eight innings, building a 50-0 record in those situations.
"It was a hard game to lose," said manager Ron Roenicke, whose club has dropped the first two games of the series. "We played well, battled back and got the lead.
"Henderson has been great all year. We know he's not going to be perfect and there's going to be a time he gives up some runs."
Whether Conger should have made it to the plate was the issue. With two down, pinch hitter Josh Hamilton sent a sinking drive to medium right field. Caleb Gindl, playing deep in a no-doubles defense, couldn't get to the ball and tried a diving catch, coming up just short as the ball bounded away for a double.
"We were back a little deeper, 3-1 count, no-doubles kind of deal," said Gindl. "So, I was back. I needed one more step. I think it went underneath my glove; that's why it went forward.
"It was a decent break but last thing you probably want to do in that situation is dive because if the ball gets past you he gets to second. He got to second anyway, so I probably shouldn't have dove for it. The ball had top-spin on it. I was going all out and thought I could make a play on it; thought I could catch it. I was 3 inches short."
Asked if he thought the ball should have been caught, Roenicke said, "It's hard to say. I didn't get a good look at what happened. When it went in the air, I thought it was going to be caught. You'll have to ask Gindl if the ball had more top-spin than he thought. Playing deep was OK."
Given that extra life, the Angels sent Conger to the plate and he sent a 2-1 fastball far out to right field, down the line, to erase the Brewers' 5-4 lead. Henderson had converted saves in 12 consecutive appearances, a franchise record.
It was Henderson's fourth blown save in 26 chances but the other three came while pitching in the eighth inning as a setup man earlier in the season.
"My fastball tonight was lively," said Henderson. "They know I throw a lot of fastballs. Conger, credit him. He was just timing it up there. He saw three of them and timed up the (fourth) one.
"We don't have enough scouting on him. We're thinking he's kind of a 'dive/hooker' guy (diving out after outside pitches and trying to pull them) so we were trying to get in on him. I still left it over the plate."
The discouraging ending put a damper on a big night at the plate by catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who went 3 for 5 with four RBI. Lucroy doubled in two runs in the first inning off Angels starter Jerome Williams and singled in two runs in the seventh off reliever Michael Kohn to erase the visitors' 4-3 lead.
Right-hander Marco Estrada started for the Brewers and battled his way through seven innings, allowing nine hits and four runs. Estrada walked only one and helped his cause by logging eight strikeouts.
Estrada had little luck in the third inning when the Angels scored three times to overcome a 2-0 deficit. J.B. Shuck led off with a single and raced to third when Erick Aybar dropped a hit in front of centerfielder Carlos Gomez, who appeared at first to have a play on the ball.
Mike Trout then dribbled a grounder through the right side -- second baseman Scooter Gennett was shaded up the middle -- for a hit that put the Angels on the board. Kole Calhoun, who homered Friday night, singled to right to score Aybar and tie the game.
Mark Trumbo popped out but Luis Jimenez grounded a single up the middle to send home Trout and put Los Angeles on top, 3-2. Estrada finally got out of the inning when Grant Green grounded into a double play.
"There were a number of things that happened that you can't control," said Estrada. "All you can do is try to make your pitches."
(c)2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at www.jsonline.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services