The win ended the first half of the season on a high note before the All-Star break and came in front of a sellout crowd at Miller Park.
"I knew it would be good to win a game before you get four days off," Sabathia said. "That's all I was trying to do, help this team win and be able to take the break and relax, so we can come back and be strong in San Francisco.
"Russ [Branyan] told me, 'If you finish this thing, we're going to win it in the bottom of the ninth.'"
Bill Hall led off the last frame with a single and advanced to third base on a bunt single by Mike Cameron and a throwing error by Reds reliever David Weathers. Cincinnati then opted to intentionally walk Jason Kendall to load the bases.
Cincinnati closer and former Brewer Francisco Cordero entered the game to face pinch-hitter Craig Counsell, but his outing was exceedingly brief. Counsell lifted the first pitch he saw into right field to score Hall on a sacrifice fly and give Milwaukee the win.
"[Cordero] is a strikeout pitcher, so he's not a guy you want to let get two strikes on you and then have to battle him," Counsell said. "I just looked for something in the zone that I could drive.
"It was great to get [Sabathia] a win, because he did a hell of a job."
The decision to send Counsell to the plate in the ninth was an easy one for manager Ned Yost.
"He's a veteran guy, and there is probably nobody else I want up in that situation right there," Yost said. "With nobody out and the bases loaded, he's got so many weapons he can use.
"He's got a good eye, so he can take a walk, he can lay down a squeeze, he's got speed, has got an idea of what he's doing at the plate and can hit the ball deep enough to the outfield to score a sac run."
The Reds scored single runs off Sabathia in the second and third innings to jump out to an early two-run lead. The Brewers closed the gap, scoring a run in the bottom half of the third inning on Sabathia's homer, and tied the game on a Gabe Kapler RBI double in the sixth.
Sabathia got into trouble in those early innings, but was able to work through two tough situations, limiting the Reds to just two runs.
"That's what great pitchers do," Yost said. "They are able to control the damage, so to speak. He had the bases loaded with nobody out one time and men on first and third another time, and only gave up one run in both instances.
"That's what really good pitchers can do -- they control that damage. Plus, he can hit a little, too."
Sabathia's solo shot extended the Brewers' current streak of games with a home run to a season-high 13. He became the first pitcher to hit home runs in both leagues in one season since Earl Wilson did it in 1970 for Detroit and San Diego, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Brewers threatened to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. J.J. Hardy hit a one-out double, but it was followed by a weak Ryan Braun flyout to right field and an intentional walk to Prince Fielder. Kapler then grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
"We were going to go to [closer Salomon] Torres, if we scored," Yost said. "It was CC in a tie game, no matter what."
The score remained tied entering the final frame, and Yost did send Sabathia out to the mound. Sabathia made sure his manager didn't regret it, striking out the final three batters he faced.
"In the ninth inning, he was at 111 pitches, but the lineup set up for him with all left-handers with the exception of the catcher, [David] Ross," Yost said. "He felt good. I talked to him, and he said, 'I feel strong,' so we sent him back out there."
Milwaukee fans got to see some of Sabathia's trademark emotion when he struck out the final Cincinnati batter.
"I was fired up," Sabathia said. "The crowd was fired up; the dugout was fired up. That was a big moment in the game."