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SD@MIL: Ishikawa clears the bases with a double

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' season ended with one last reminder of where things went wrong.

Trying to cover for Yovani Gallardo, a parade of Milwaukee relievers let a six-run lead slip away, surrendering runs in four consecutive innings of a 7-6 loss to the Padres on Wednesday at Miller Park.

When the Padres tied the game in the seventh inning on Chase Headley's RBI triple and went ahead on Yonder Alonso's sacrifice fly, one of those relievers, Jim Henderson, suffered Milwaukee's 29th blown save, most in the Majors and a new franchise record. It topped the Brewers' 1987 "Team Streak," which suffered 28 blown saves.

But that view of the season finale as a microcosm of the season ignored the fact that an already hard-worked relief corps was tasked with covering two entire games after Wily Peralta was shut down with a biceps issue and Gallardo was scratched as a precaution. It also ignored that closer John Axford & Co. had turned things around, fueling as much as any facet the Brewers' 29-13 run after Aug. 19.

No team in baseball was better than the Brewers after that date, and as Ryan Braun saw it, the bullpen gets a lot of the credit.

"There's no way we get back in the race if the relievers don't turn their season around and really pitch well over that period of time," Braun said. "It's an extremely difficult game. We win together, we lose together. I know a lot of people blame them, but as players we certainly didn't."

Wednesday night began with much more promise for the Brewers, who had a 6-0 lead after three innings thanks mostly to first baseman Travis Ishikawa, who delivered a run-scoring groundout in the second and a three-run double in the third.

The Padres mounted a comeback, however. San Diego left fielder Chris Denorfia homered in the fourth inning off Josh Stinson, who was tabbed for his first Major League start after the Brewers and Gallardo decided to cancel his final scheduled start, citing Gallardo's heavy workload over the past two years.

The Padres added two more runs in the fifth inning against Kameron Loe in an inning that would have been worse had Headley's two-run home run not been overturned upon review. Headley returned to the plate after his long foul ball and delivered an RBI double instead.

Cameron Maybin cut the Brewers' lead to 6-5 in the sixth inning with a two-run homer off Brandon Kintzler.

The Padres pushed ahead in the seventh inning against Henderson, the 29-year-old rookie whose promotion after parts of 10 seasons helped the Brewers right their bullpen and begin a second-half surge into Wild Card contention. But Henderson made trouble by walking Will Venable to lead off the inning, and Headley followed with a game-tying triple past a diving Braun in left field. Headley later scored the winning run on Alonso's fly ball to center field, sliding ahead of a strong Carlos Gomez throw. Were there some tired arms in the bullpen by the end?

"Probably," said Henderson who appeared in all three games of the series. "Maybe it was the three days in a row at the end of the season that did it."

The Brewers finished 83-79 for their second straight winning season and fourth winning season in six years, and manager Ron Roenicke rattled off some of the reasons he feels optimistic. The Brewers got hot with young starting pitchers who will help populate the remade rotation in 2013. They boasted the National League's most potent scoring offense, which, barring trades, will return entirely intact.

"If we would have finished 12 games under .500, next year would have been a huge question mark," Roenicke said. "I don't think there's a question mark anymore. We can win with the personnel we have."

Said Braun: "We were [12] games under .500 in August, and finishing over .500 is definitely an accomplishment. Getting back into the race and playing meaningful games in September until the last three games is something we're really proud of. Hopefully we can build on this next year."

From the department of statistical milestones:

• The Brewers stole three more bases on Wednesday and became the first team since the 1996 Rockies to lead its league in both home runs (202) and steals (158).

• Milwaukee's pitchers did not strike out a Padres batter until the sixth inning but finished with six in the game and 1,402 strikeouts this season, second in Major League history and only two strikeouts shy of the record set by the 2003 Cubs.

• Aramis Ramirez hit an RBI single in the first inning to set a record for RBIs by a Brewers third baseman (103; Ramirez also drove in two runs as a designated hitter) and boost his batting average to an even .300. Roenicke removed Ramirez in the third inning to a standing ovation.

• Braun became the fifth different Brewer to lead the league in home runs, with 41. Prince Fielder was the last, in 2007. Gorman Thomas was the only Brewers slugger to do it twice, in 1979 and '82.

But Braun finished second in the NL with 112 RBIs, trailing Headley's 115.

This season ended quickly. The Brewers were formally eliminated from postseason contention on Sunday against the Astros. Roenicke addressed the club on Monday afternoon and thanked players for not giving up. On Tuesday, those players packed their belongings into moving boxes to be shipped home.

On Wednesday night, it was over.

Brewers pitchers and catchers report to Maryvale Baseball Park for Spring Training beginning Feb. 12, 2013.

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