MILWAUKEE -- Off the bat, Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez thought, "homer," and hung his head.
Out in center field, Carlos Gomez thought, "I got it."
Have it he did. Gomez's elegant, athletic, jaw-dropping catch robbed the Reds' Joey Votto of a go-ahead home run, and provided a dramatic final out for the Brewers' 4-3 win on Monday at Miller Park.
When Gomez landed from his perfectly-timed leap, he screamed in exhilaration, dropped to a knee and performed the sign of the cross, his standard post-win routine.
What he did not do was show the baseball. So Votto, nearly at second base by this time, demanded to see it.
"I said, 'Here's the ball right here, what do you want?'" Gomez said later at his locker, his cell phone buzzing away with congratulatory messages.
Then he laughed.
"In that situation, when you save the game like that, or when you hit a walk-off home run, it's amazing," Gomez said. "I've never hit one, but I've caught a home run ball to win the game. It's something special. You can't wait to get home and see it over and over."
Jean Segura's one-out single in the first inning was an early spoiler for Reds right-hander Homer Bailey's bid for a second consecutive no-hitter, and Jonathan Lucroy's two-run home run two batters later gave the Brewers a lead they would barely maintain, thanks to Kyle Lohse's quality start and the three relievers who closed it out.
But those performances were footnotes in the wake of The Catch, which sealed the Brewers' second victory over the Reds in seven tries this season and moved Rodriguez into a tie with one-time Brewers closer Doug Jones for 22nd all-time with 303 career saves.
"I've been around a long time, and I can't remember anything like that," Rodriguez said. "Honestly, I don't. What can I tell you? He saved me big-time right there. He picked me up."
It was not the first time Gomez made a sensational game-ending catch for a 300-plus save pitcher.
On May 16, 2008, with Joe Nathan pitching for the Twins and Gomez in center field, he smashed into the outfield wall at Coors Field to take away a ninth-inning hit from the Rockies' Yorvit Torrealba for a 4-2 win. That play left Gomez with a bloody lip.
On Monday, Votto did not think Gomez would have a play at all. He was batting with a runner on base and the Reds down a run when he connected with Rodriguez's 90-mph fastball and sent it to straightaway center field.
"I hit a ball that in all likelihood was going to put us up," Votto said. "It'd be an actual homer over the fence, and to have the center fielder take it away from you -- one, ironically, I'm probably going to play beside at the All-Star Game -- the whole thing is really a random occurrence and what makes baseball so special."
Votto has company, because Gomez has legitimately robbed four home runs this season, including a would-be blast by the Mets' Marlon Byrd on this same Brewers homestand. According to ESPN's Stats & Info department, no other outfielder has robbed more than two this year.
"I was spoiled early on and had Torii Hunter back there in his prime," said Lohse, a former Twins teammate of Hunter in the years before Gomez got to Minnesota. "[Gomez] is right there with the early Minnesota days of Torii jumping off the 'baggie' and bringing stuff back all the time. Carlos is so athletic and explosive."
Gomez's catch was the most memorable home run robbery at Miller Park since Hunter took one away from Barry Bonds in the 2002 All-Star Game.
Gomez saved some embarrassment for third-base coach Ed Sedar -- whose late stop sign with Logan Schafer only a few steps from home plate spelled an ugly end to the eighth inning -- and a victory for Lohse, who, on a night that began with Bailey in the spotlight, was the best starting pitcher in the house. Lohse scattered nine hits and limited the damage to three runs without a single strikeout.
That is often Lohse's game plan: Pitch to contact and leave the strikeouts for someone else.
"Yeah, but not zero," Lohse said. "They were really swinging early in the count and I'm not going to be that guy to get them to swing at balls way out of the zone. They did a good job of putting some good at-bats together, I got some quick outs. It was a mix. I'm just up there trying to pound the zone and they took advantage a couple of times, but more times than not I was able to get a weak fly ball or a ground ball."
Brewers hitters were better against Bailey, the former first-round Draft pick who was bidding to match Reds left-hander Johnny Vander Meer's back-to-back no-hitters in 1938.
But six days after he blanked the Giants, Bailey continued to have trouble with the Brewers. Including Monday, when he lasted 5 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on 10 mostly hard hits, Bailey is 1-7 against Milwaukee with a 6.03 ERA in 13 starts.
"I'm not surprised when he comes out and he's not the same guy they saw [six] days ago to throw the no-hitter," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I think any time you throw a no-hitter, the emotions, the adrenaline, are so high up there, and usually your pitch count is so high up there. To bounce back after that is pretty difficult."
Bailey would have been off the hook for his third loss in four decisions had Votto's fly ball eluded Gomez's glove.
Instead, Gomez and the Brewers had one for the highlight reel.
"I don't think I've ever seen a game end like that, that I've been a part of, at least," Roenicke said.