"It just goes to show you, when you have a chance to put the dagger in, you've got to do it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
The ninth inning exemplified this. After Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn and Sandoval singled to load the bases with nobody out against Trevor Hoffman, Bengie Molina and Edgar Renteria hit sacrifice flies to dissolve a 4-4 deadlock. But the Giants left the bases loaded as Juan Uribe flied out to center.
San Francisco still seemed primed to win, particularly after Affeldt inherited a two-on, nobody-out jam from Sergio Romo in the eighth inning and preserved the tie by coaxing Mike Cameron's double-play grounder.
But Wilson (2-4) couldn't sustain that momentum. With one out, he yielded pinch-hitter Craig Counsell's infield single and walked pinch-hitter Mat Gamel.
"That adds fuel to the other club when you do that," Bochy said, lamenting the free pass. Corey Hart's RBI single ended a personal 0-for-19 skid and stamped the rally as serious.
J.J. Hardy also singled, a hard one-hopper up the middle that Uribe tried to backhand but couldn't handle.
"That ball was smoked," Bochy said, absolving Uribe from blame. It went into center field, scoring Gamel with the tying run. Wilson struck out Ryan Braun, but Fielder, who drove in four runs, lined a 1-1 slider down the right-field line to send home Hart with the winning run. It ended Wilson's streak of 11 consecutive save conversions and saddled him with his fourth blown save in 24 chances.
Wilson refused to second-guess his pitch selection or location.
"I made good pitches," he insisted. The right-hander also rejected the notion that this defeat was more crushing than others, since it obscured so many admirable efforts by his teammates.
"Whenever you lose, it's the same, no matter what the price is," said Wilson, who was unscored upon in his previous 13 appearances. "It's always bitter to swallow."
It was somewhat painful for Sandoval, who was spiked along his right forearm by Brewers second baseman Casey McGehee upon advancing on Molina's sacrifice fly and sliding into the bag in the ninth. Earlier, Sandoval looked invincible as he clobbered leadoff homers in the third and fifth innings, launched a seventh-inning fly to left field that Braun caught two steps from the wall and hit a titanic foul drive in the ninth off Hoffman.
"Everything was going right for me tonight," said Sandoval, whose 3-for-5 performance lifted his batting average to .340.
With 11 home runs, Sandoval wrested the team lead from Molina, who has 10. Upon learning this, the 22-year-old switch-hitter, who doesn't consider himself a home run hitter, remained nonchalant.
"I just focus on playing my game," Sandoval said. "I don't focus on the numbers."
Zito's career numbers at Miller Park had been awful: an 0-3 record with a 10.05 ERA in three starts. But he reversed his fortunes by blanking Milwaukee on two hits through five innings. In the top of the sixth, however, Zito became a baserunner when he grounded to shortstop and, instead of being thrown out at first base, watched Uribe get trapped off second base. Zito was obliged to sprint to third base on Rowand's subsequent double, and the left-hander admitted that he felt a tad "gassed" in the Brewers' half of the sixth. Through that inning, Zito said he lacked full arm extension on his delivery, preventing him from imparting late movement on his pitches.
That resulted in walks to Hart and Hardy before Fielder hit his 19th homer, a McCoveyesque drive into the right-field seats on a 2-2 fastball. Bochy replaced Zito with Brandon Medders, who yielded McGehee's homer that tied the score.
From that point, each inning featured dramatics. Cameron robbed Nate Schierholtz of a tiebreaking home run by reaching over the top of the diagonal portion of the left-center-field wall and grabbing the ball with a well-timed leap to end the seventh. Then came Affeldt's eighth -- and, of course, the ninth, when the Brewers, not the Giants, took the final bows.
"The best thing you can do as a player is try to put it behind you as soon as you can," Rowand said of the disappointment. "You can't dwell on it because you don't want to take it into tomorrow."