MILWAUKEE -- Chalk it up as one of the most reluctant curtain calls in baseball history.

Casey McGehee finally did ascend the steps of the dugout at Miller Park, still ruing his bad error in the top of the sixth inning instead of relishing his first career grand slam. After the Brewers closed out a closer than expected 10-6 win over the Mets at Miller Park, McGehee was finally able to smile.

"If you play long enough, you're going to have those 'What are you doing?' moments," said McGehee, who has emerged from the waiver wire to be a bona fide National League Rookie of the Year candidate.

McGehee's came when he dropped what should have been an easy inning-ending popup near third base and watched the Mets score two unearned runs. He atoned moments later with a grand slam, and shortstop J.J. Hardy matched a career high with four hits as Milwaukee held on to win the opener of a three-game series.

Combined with the Cardinals' 10-0 loss to the Giants, the Brewers took sole possession of first place in the National League Central, moving a game ahead of St. Louis.

Hardy hit a long home run off Mets starter Fernando Nieve (3-1) and all nine members of Milwaukee's starting lineup had a hit. The list included pitcher Braden Looper (6-4), who drove in a fourth-inning run with a single and worked 6 1/3 innings for his first win in a month.

McGehee's "What are you doing?" moment nearly spoiled Looper's night. After he dropped Fernando Martinez's popup, Mets catcher Brian Schneider slammed Looper's next pitch within inches of clearing the right-field wall for a double that cut the Brewers' lead to 3-2.

"I don't know how many popups I've caught in my life, and I haven't had too many problems," said McGehee. "One part of it was kind of like, it's going to happen eventually. But I felt terrible for Looper because he was throwing so well. I felt like I took the momentum he had going and put it to a halt. But he came back and did what he had to do to get out of the inning."

McGehee rewarded Looper's escape when he slammed a 2-2 fastball from Mets reliever Brian Stokes for a 7-2 lead. It was the biggest of 19 hits for the Brewers, one shy of their season high, and coupled with a Cardinals loss it left them with sole possession of first place in the National League Central.

McGehee's first career slam prompted the 39,872 fans in the stands to demand his first career curtain call. He didn't immediately oblige, and Hardy could understand his reluctance.

"Everyone that's ever played baseball has dropped a ball like that, and it's the worst feeling in the world," Hardy said. "But to come back and hit a grand slam like that, I think it took him a few innings to realize what he had done. He was still upset with the dropped popup."

McGehee insisted that he enjoyed the grand slam, even if he circled the bases with a scowl. He was still all business during the curtain call.

"I didn't really know what was going on," McGehee said. "Prince [Fielder] had to tell me to get out there, and I didn't even know what he said. When I can be a little more removed from the situation, that is going to be something I always remember as really special. If someone would have told me this time last year that I was going to have 40,000 people calling me out of the dugout for a curtain call, I would have said you were lying."


"When I can be a little more removed from the situation, that is going to be something I always remember as really special. If someone would have told me this time last year that I was going to have 40,000 people calling me out of the dugout for a curtain call, I would have said you were lying."
-- Casey McGehee

McGehee was at Triple-A Iowa in the Cubs' chain last year. He drove in 92 runs but Chicago waived him in October.

"It was pretty touching," McGehee said of the fan support. "Pretty cool."

Before McGehee's blast, the Brewers had only three runs to show for 13 hits. They finished the game with 10 runs on 19 hits, one shy of their season-high 20-hit effort in Cincinnati on May 6.

"When you have a bunch of hits and you're not scoring any runs, the thought in your mind is, 'You've had all these chances, you haven't capitalized on it and it's going to come back and bite you,'" Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "That was crossing my mind."

Looper said he felt no ill effects from the line drive that struck the back of his right upper arm in his previous start, a Brewers loss to the Twins. He scattered seven hits in 6 1/3 innings and was charged with three runs, but only one was earned -- and it scored with reliever Todd Coffey on the mound.

Looper would have liked to pull one pitch back. After McGehee's error, he grooved a sinker to Schneider, and the Mets catcher came within inches of hitting a tying home run. Instead, he settled for a two-run double.

"Casey is not trying to drop that ball," Looper said. "It's easy to let yourself wander mentally there, so I took a lot of time before throwing the next pitch and said, 'OK, refocus and make a good pitch here.' Unfortunately, it looks like I didn't do that because I made a bad pitch. It was up a little bit."

McGehee was relieved that Looper escaped further damage. So was Macha.

"He turned around and made pitches to the next guy," Macha said. "Errors happen, and I think he's a good teammate who can shake it off and try to get the next guy."

The Brewers increased the lead to 10-3 through the eighth, and their insurance runs loomed large when Carlos Villanueva was touched for three Mets runs in the ninth inning on five hits, including one-time Brewer Gary Sheffield's two-run home run.

After two more singles, the Brewers called for Trevor Hoffman, and he induced a Schneider double-play grounder with one pitch. Hoffman notched his 18th save in 19 chances.