"He showed he's a horse," manager Cecil Cooper said. "I guess they're going to hitch their wagon to him and ride him on off in the sunset. He was a horse tonight."
The Astros produced a healthy share of baserunners, but in the end, Sabathia's only true flaws were two harmless solo home runs, one to Reggie Abercrombie in the fifth and a leadoff shot to the red-hot Ty Wigginton in the next frame.
Following Abercrombie's homer -- his second as a pinch-hitter this year -- Sabathia yielded base hits to Darin Erstad and Mark Loretta. The runners advanced on Miguel Tejada's grounder to second, but Sabathia left them stranded when he struck out Lance Berkman to end the inning.
Sabathia minimized the damage the rest of the way, until the ninth, when the Astros threatened after taking advantage of a temporary lapse in the Brewers' defense. But still, they managed to scratch out just one run.
"The guy's an ace -- there's no doubt it," Wigginton said. "CC pitched a heck of a game. He was up, down, in, out, changing speeds ... everybody got to watch an ace today. You know when you're going against Sabathia you have to have your 'A' game on. He was just nails."
Judging by Sabathia's track record -- both toward the end of his tenure with Cleveland, but especially since he joined the Brewers in early July -- the Astros were a long shot at best to win this one after Milwaukee gave Sabathia more than enough runs with which to work. The Brewers batted around and scored five in a fourth inning that included a two-run base hit by Sabathia after Wolf intentionally walked Jason Kendall.
"We just can't let them get away with this right there," Cooper said. "They got away. Five runs is really unacceptable. We can't let that happen. Once you give him six runs, that's a tough uphill battle after that."
Wolf also issued a two-out walk to Ryan Braun in the first frame that led to an RBI double by Corey Hart. The right-hander pointed to that walk to Braun and the leadoff walk that began the Brewers' breakout fourth as the keys to the loss.
"I think that shaped both those innings," Wolf said. "There were spots with nobody on, and I have to be more aggressive. They're obviously good hitters, but if they hit the ball out of the park, it's only a solo home run and I can go after the next guy."
Wolf credited Sabathia with hitting what he felt was a good pitch, a slider down and away that Sabathia tapped into left field.
"I looked at the video 100 times, and I'll probably see it a thousand times when I'm not sleeping tonight," Wolf said. "It was a slider down and away and he stuck his bat out and hit the barrel on the ball and slapped it the other way. He really helped himself out there."
Said Sabathia: "I was just looking for something out over the plate and try to get a good swing on it. There's no way I can be [angry at the intentional walk], I'm hitting .160. So that was a good move."
Sabathia threw 111 pitches through eight innings, and even though the Brewers had a seven-run lead heading into the final frame, Brewers manager Ned Yost allowed Sabathia to finish the game.
Sabathia faced seven batters before he finally nailed down the win. Humberto Quintero knocked a one-out base hit to right and reached second when J.J. Hardy fumbled a possible double-play ground ball from Brad Ausmus. Both runners moved up when Erstad snuck an infield single toward the hole at second, and Quintero scored on a Loretta sacrifice fly.
Sabathia walked Tejada, bringing Berkman to the plate with the bases loaded. He grounded to third to end the game.
"I think we were confident we can come back, even in that ninth inning," Wigginton said. "Lance Berkman at the plate, with the bases loaded. ... [if he] gets a hold of one, it makes it interesting."
Instead, the Astros were tagged with their third loss in four games. They are now 8 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the National League Wild Card standings.