Through seven innings, the Milwaukee Brewers hadn't managed a hit off Bronson Arroyo. Worse, they'd gotten only four balls out of the infield.
It was bad, and they all knew it.
Milwaukee ended Arroyo's no-hitter with one out in the eighth and rallied for three runs to tie it, but Drew Stubbs led off the bottom half with a homer, sending the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-3 victory on Tuesday night.
Arroyo's no-hit drama ended abruptly. He walked George Kottaras with one out, then gave up a double by Taylor Green — in a 1-for-22 slump — that landed just inside the right-field line.
"Probably by the fifth inning, you see the zero up there and you really want to get one," Green said.
The Brewers seemed to relax once they got that first hit. Corey Hart had a pinch-hit double that cut it to 3-2, and Norichiki Aoki singled to tie it and end Arroyo's outing.
All it did was set up another bad ending for the defending NL Central champions, who fell 8½ games behind the Reds, matching their biggest deficit of the season.
John Axford (1-5) left a fastball over the middle of the plate on his first pitch to Stubbs, who connected for the first time since June 2. In his 31 appearances this season, Axford has allowed the first batter to reach safely 15 times.
"I'm almost at a loss for words now," said Axford, whose ERA is 5.22. "It's just kind of exhausting. Even when I feel good, it seems to be one pitch, one play, something happens and it turns everything back around on me."
Jay Bruce also had a three-run homer for the Reds.
Arroyo was aware of his no-hitter from the fifth inning on. So were the Brewers, who heard the 32,986 fans cheering a little bit louder with each out they made.
After the Brewers pulled even in the eighth, Sean Marshall (2-3) got the final out. Aroldis Chapman struck out three in the ninth for his ninth save in 12 tries, celebrating the three-hitter with a pair of somersaults in front of the mound. Chapman had blown two of his last four save chances by giving up homers.
Not what the Brewers cared to see. Green was on deck at the final out, but said he didn't notice Chapman's forward rolls.
Told what happened, Green said: "I've never seen that. Two somersaults? That's tough."
The futility felt familiar to the Brewers, who had been held to one run in three of their last four games. Their last nine losses have come by two runs or less.
"Yeah, they wear on you," manager Ron Roenicke said. "They do."
The Brewers fell to 12-16 in one-run games. They were 30-18 in one-run games last year.
"Yeah, it's difficult to take," Axford said. "Last year we were on the better end of a lot of those. It's been a change from last year."
Milwaukee's Marco Estrada returned from the disabled list and fanned a career-high 12 batters in six innings, but gave up Bruce's 17th homer in the sixth.
For the second night in a row, a pitcher set a career high in strikeouts at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati's Mat Latos fanned 13 in a 3-1 complete-game victory in the series opener on Monday.
Estrada had been on the disabled list since May 24 with a strained right thigh. He made two rehab starts at Triple-A and came back as sharp as he's been all season.
The right-hander fanned Zack Cozart on a 91 mph fastball to open the Reds' first inning, and kept going. He struck out six of the first nine he faced, and had 10 strikeouts — a career high — through only five innings.
Estrada gave up a double by Joey Votto in the sixth, a single by Brandon Phillips and Bruce's drive, which made it 64 consecutive games at Great American with at least one homer. It's the longest such streak since Coors Field had 80 straight game with one from 2002-03, according to STATS LLC.
NOTES: Zack Greinke starts the final game of the series for Milwaukee against Homer Bailey. ... Dr. Henry Heimlich presented a life-saving award to Reds 3B Todd Frazier before the game. Frazier saved a choking restaurant patron during a series in Pittsburgh last month. ... Brewers RHP Shaun Marcum felt better during a throwing session on Tuesday. Marcum has been on the 15-day DL since June 15 with tightness in his right elbow. Roenicke had hoped that Marcum could be activated and start on Saturday, but decided that's no longer an option. Marcum had some discomfort while throwing on Monday. ... Cincinnati's last no-hitter was Tom Browning's perfect game against the Dodgers on Sept. 16, 1988.
Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay