The unearned runs came as a result of four errors, including two throwing errors by pitcher Matt Garza. The mistakes had Milwaukee in a four-run hole in the fifth inning before the comeback.
"A sloppy game is always discouraging, and it was sloppy. And it wasn't just Garza," manager Ron Roenicke said. "That's always disappointing, but I'm glad guys were able to battle back. They did a great job to come back and tie it, but [the Reds] came back and got a couple of hits there off [closer Francisco Rodriguez]. It was good to come back and at least make it a ballgame. I felt really good when we came back and tied it; I thought we were going to win."
The loss shrunk Milwaukee's lead in the National League Central to 4 1/2 games. The Brewers are now 1-4 on the season against the fourth-place Reds.
The near-comeback came one night after the Brewers played 13 innings against the Mets in New York and got back to Milwaukee at around 2:30 a.m. CT. Though Roenicke refused to blame the loss on fatigue, Reds manager Bryan Price believes it may have contributed to Milwaukee's subpar defensive play.
"We probably benefited from them getting in at 3 o'clock in the morning and having a heavy, busy day here at the ballpark," Price said. "In the end it doesn't really matter. I think we played a very good game, survived that scare in the seventh and showed a lot of substance there to win that game in nine."
The Brewers' offense started slowly but picked up quickly in the seventh inning, when the team recorded six of its nine hits. Carlos Gomez extended his MLB-best on-base streak to 28 games, and Jonathan Lucroy extended his hitting streak to nine games. The team's six hits in the seventh inning were a season high.
Unfortunately for Milwaukee, four errors also tied a season high, and the miscues made the difference.
Garza, who has a history of trouble throwing to bases, had not committed an error through his first 13 starts before making two on Friday. Roenicke said that the team had worked with Garza in Spring Training to combat the problem, and he was surprised by the errors.
Despite the miscues, Garza still tossed his fourth straight quality start, as he was charged with only one earned run over seven innings.
"Everything felt great. It's a shame that I let it go to waste on throwing errors," Garza said. "It just [stinks], but the guys battled back. I wish we had never been in that spot. My stuff was too good tonight to do something dumb like that."
Garza's problems started in the first inning, when Todd Frazier singled and jumped too early while trying to steal second. Garza still had the ball and looked to have him out easily, but his throw bounced into center field, allowing Frazier to advance to third. Frazier would score on Brandon Phillips' single.
The Brewers tied it in the fourth on Aramis Ramirez's RBI double, but Garza's error in the next inning spurred a Cincinnati rally. Zack Cozart led off with a single, and pitcher Homer Bailey tried to move him with a sacrifice bunt. Garza fielded the ball but threw it into the stands down the right-field line, putting two runners in scoring position.
Things snowballed from there, as the Reds scored four runs on four hits and two errors.
"There were a couple of outs that we should have gotten, and he couldn't make the plays," Roenicke said. "It's too bad. The one inning they scored all the runs, one ball -- Votto's ball -- was the only one they hit hard."
The Brewers clawed back with four runs in the seventh inning with a rally that started with a home run by Khris Davis and ended with a game-tying RBI double from Gomez. But Ramirez grounded out with two runners in scoring position to end the threat, and Milwaukee wouldn't put another runner on base.
Rodriguez entered a tie game in the ninth inning and allowed Hamilton to single home the game-winning run. Aroldis Chapman retired the side in order to record his 11th save.
Though the comeback fell short, Roenicke was satisfied with his team's energy after a long Thursday night.
"Sometimes you come out after one of those games and you play great," he said. "I don't know why. It was late, it was long, but I thought the guys were into the game well today. A couple of miscues blows that up, but I still liked the effort, and the effort showed with us coming back and tying it."