"It shouldn't have been that close," Baker said after the game. "We had some opportunities with less than two outs, and CC really buckled down and didn't allow those runs to score."
Six outs from handing Sabathia his first loss with the Brewers, a two-run bottom of the eighth inning was capped by Mike Cameron's RBI single off David Weathers.
Garnering Cy Young Award buzz despite only a half-season in the National League, Sabathia came into the day 9-0 with a 1.42 ERA since his July 7 trade from Cleveland to Milwaukee. He was 2-0 with a 1.05 ERA in two previous starts vs. Cincinnati this season.
"I was going against one of the hottest guys in the game, if not the hottest. I knew it was going to be a low-scoring ballgame," said Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, who pitched seven strong innings. "I really didn't have that great of stuff today. I had a sinker, and that's about it. I was hoping they'd hit enough balls on the ground."
In a hard-luck no-decision, Arroyo pitched better than he felt while giving up just two unearned runs and five hits over seven innings, with four walks and three strikeouts.
A pair of errors led to the Brewers' first two runs of the game. With Craig Counsell on first base in the Brewers' third, Jay Bruce caught Jason Kendall's routine flyout to right field, but his throw to double off Counsell at first base landed in the dugout. Counsell was awarded third base on the play before he scored on a Sabathia groundout. In the seventh, on Kendall's infield single, shortstop Jeff Keppinger's errant throw to first base allowed Cameron to score and make it a one-run game.
"Once they put the pinch-hitter in, I knew [Sabathia] was on the hook if I got out of that inning," said Arroyo, who came in 10-3 over his past 13 starts. "I don't know if he's been on the hook for a loss since he's been over here. It would have been nice to bury him."
Cincinnati trailed Sabathia by a 1-0 score with two on in the fifth when Jerry Hairston Jr. lifted an offspeed pitch into the left-field seats for a three-run homer, just his third of the season. It was only the fifth homer Sabathia allowed since joining the Brewers.
"I wish we could have added on," Baker said. "We were doing everything we could to add another run or two. We were running. There's a good chance in this ballpark that three might not be enough. It wasn't."
The Reds were 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven. In the sixth, Edwin Encarnacion's leadoff double and Bruce's single put runners on first and third base with no outs. Jolbert Cabrera lined out on a bullet to second base. On a contact play during Phillips' grounder to third base, Encarnacion was thrown out at home on a fielder's choice.
In the seventh, there were runners on the corners and one out before Sabathia struck out Joey Votto for the fourth time and got an Encarnacion groundout.
"We had him, big time," Baker said. "We had him to pad some runs, but this guy gets tough when he sees runners out there. He toughened up today. As soon as it looked like we had him in some serious trouble, some kind of way, he'd get out of it with no runs."
Weathers took over in the eighth and loaded the bases with no outs. J.J. Hardy hit a leadoff single and Ryan Braun walked. Instead of bringing in a lefty to face lefty-hitting Prince Fielder, Weathers remained in the game and gave up another single.
"We had a real short bullpen today, especially with guys with experience," Baker said. "I had a bunch of 'no's' on my lineup card."
Tony Gwynn Jr. grounded into a double play as Hardy scored the tying run. Cameron was next, with a lined RBI single to left field.
And with that, a chance to sweep the fading NL Wild Card leaders was foiled, as was a chance to put a blemish on Sabathia's record.
"The record speaks for itself. He's definitely the best pitcher in baseball," Hairston said. "He's tough. He's really tough. They're a very talented team. You know you're not going to keep them down for long. They've been kind of scuffling over there. We were hoping to sneak out another victory before we got out of here. It was tough."