Good feelings have been in short supply for a club that went 20-7 in August but started September by scoring just 28 runs in a 3-7 homestand. The Brewers were within four outs Wednesday of beginning the month 2-8, but rallied for two runs in the eighth against Reds reliever David Weathers (2-6). By doing so, they snapped a three-game losing streak, averted a three-game Cincinnati sweep and spared starter CC Sabathia from what would have been his first loss with Milwaukee.
The Brewers had been limited to five hits and were hitting .219 on the homestand entering the bottom of the eighth inning, when J.J. Hardy singled, Ryan Braun walked and Prince Fielder hit another single off Weathers to load the bases in a 3-2 game.
Tony Gwynn Jr., a right-field replacement after Gabe Kapler exited in the sixth inning with a right shoulder injury, grounded into a double play but managed to drive in Hardy with the tying run. Cameron followed and worked into a full count before pulling a go-ahead single to left field.
Asked if his clutch hit could spark the sluggish Brewers offense, Cameron quickly responded, "We got the fuse lit."
"When Cameron got that hit, I couldn't hear the rest of the players screaming, because I was screaming," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "I'm sure they were, too."
Guillermo Mota (5-5) was rewarded with the win after pitching a hitless eighth inning -- his 15th consecutive scoreless appearance -- and Salomon Torres struck out the side in the ninth inning for his 27th save.
The Brewers temporarily moved to within four games of the first-place Cubs in the National League Central while extending their lead over the Phillies in the NL Wild Card standings to four games after Philadelphia lost to the Florida Marlins. The Cubs were scheduled to play Wednesday night in St. Louis.
The Brewers will get a closer look at both teams over the next week. A 10-game road trip begins Thursday with the first of four games in Philadelphia, then moves to Chicago's Wrigley Field for three games, and concludes with three more games in Cincinnati.
"[Players] understand reality, that we have a three-game lead in the Wild Card," Yost said. "We had not a very good homestand -- we finished 3-7 -- but they understand that these things turn around like that. Last year, they hadn't been through that experience. They have now, and they understand it a lot better."
For seven innings Wednesday, it was the same old story for the slumping Brewers. They were held in check by Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, who allowed only five hits in seven innings and no earned runs. He issued four walks, and two of those runners scored with some help from the Reds' defense; Sabathia drove in a run with a groundout in the third inning after Craig Counsell advanced two bases on a throwing error by right fielder Jay Bruce, and Cameron scored in the seventh on a throwing error by shortstop Jeff Keppinger.
Reds center fielder Jerry Hairston covered those mistakes with one swing in the fifth inning, when he hit a three-run home run off Sabathia for a 3-1 Cincinnati lead. Entering the game, Hairston had two home runs in 207 at-bats this season.
"He's a strong little guy and he put a good swing on it," said Sabathia, who was charged with three runs on eight hits in seven innings. He struck out eight, walked one and hit a batter, and remained 9-0 since joining the Brewers' rotation on July 8.
"It just feels good to end the homestand with a win, going on a big road trip," Sabathia said. "We have some momentum going into Philly."
Brewers fans are scheduled for only one more regular-season look at Sabathia, on Sept. 27 against the Cubs. On Wednesday, some didn't want to see him go.
"Put CC back in!" a fan yelled while pinch-hitter Brad Nelson stepped to the plate for Sabathia in the bottom of the seventh inning. "He's our best hitter!"
To that point, the proclamation was not much of a stretch. Sabathia helped put the Brewers in position to answer Hairston's homer in the bottom of the fifth inning, when he doubled two batters after Counsell's leadoff single.
Third-base coach Dale Sveum held Counsell at third base and Ray Durham walked to load the bases for Hardy, who scalded a grounder to third baseman Edwin Encarnacion. Arroyo and the Reds escaped with an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
"I got the pitch I was looking for," said Hardy, who was looking for a sinker down and in and got it. "I should have been able to elevate it. I hit it hard and just couldn't find a hole. I think a lot of guys hit balls hard on this homestand, and it just seemed like there was always somebody there. That's why this was a big one today."