CINCINNATI (AP) — The Cleveland Indians reached the midpoint of their annual intrastate series with one clear impression: It's not going well in any way.
They got swept by a Reds team so sick at the start of the series that manager Dusty Baker hardly had anyone on the bench next to him. Brandon Phillips hit one of Cincinnati's three homers and drove in four more runs on Thursday afternoon for a 12-5 victory that left Cleveland discouraged.
The ailing Reds pulled off their first sweep of the Indians since 2008, and it wasn't even close.
"It's part of baseball," said Shin-Soo Choo, who had a pair of solo homers. "I don't know. Cincinnati is maybe better than us, the last three games."
Joey Votto and Ryan Ludwick also homered for the Reds, who had a season-high 17 hits.
No surprise that Phillips played a starring role for the NL Central leaders. He went 8 for 13 with two homers and seven RBIs against the team that gave up on him in 2006, raising his career average against Cleveland to .356.
He also paid a price for a dust-up between Indians starter Derek Lowe and Baker, getting hit in the arm by a pitch during a 5-3 win on Wednesday night.
Mike Leake went 4 1-3 innings before having to leave the game, still feeling the effects of a nasty stomach virus that swept through the clubhouse at the start of the series. Jose Arredondo (4-1) pitched out of a threat in the fifth.
Votto hit a three-run homer in the first inning off Josh Tomlin (3-4), who had been 4-0 in five career interleague starts.
"The pitches that were out of the zone, they let them go," Tomlin said. "Other than that, everything I threw over the plate they hit."
Cleveland's Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 21 games, longest in the majors this season. Other than that, there wasn't much good for the Indians during the visit to the Ohio River city.
"He's got that streak going, which is such a nice thing and special," said manager Manny Acta, who got Brantley out of the game after his seventh-inning double. "I'm glad he was able to get it on that one so I didn't have to keep him out there for nine innings. That's one good thing going right now."
This Cleveland-versus-Cincinnati series will be remembered mostly for an inside fastball and a wagging finger.
Lowe holds a personal grudge against Baker for something that happened between them several years ago — he won't say what exactly. When Mat Latos threw an inside fastball to Lowe during the second game of the series, he gestured toward Baker, who waved his finger back.
Lowe plunked Phillips on the arm in the bottom of the inning, drawing a warning from the umpires. There were no further on-field problems.
Lowe accused Baker of ordering the pitch because of their personal issues. A day later, Baker said it wasn't personal but a payback for Lowe hitting Votto in the back during a 2009 game. Their exchange provided an edge to the series, which resumes Monday in Cleveland with Lowe on the mound.
Because it'll be in an AL park, Lowe won't have to bat.
The Reds won the first two games of the series even though more than a half-dozen players were sick. Leake had to be pushed back a day to give him more time to recover. He left after giving up seven hits, including the two homers by Choo.
An exhausted Leake sat on the bench and buried his face in a towel. Baker came over and put his hands on Leake's shoulders, showing his appreciation for the pitcher's effort.
NOTES: With their sweep, the Reds tied the intrastate series at 39-39. ... The Reds are 6-3 in interleague play, the Indians 3-6. ... Reds 3B Scott Rolen will do a weekend rehab stint at Triple-A Louisville and could rejoin the Reds in Cleveland. Rolen has been on the DL since May 12 with a sore left shoulder. ... Each Indians starting pitcher had a single in the series. Reliever Esmil Rogers also singled on Thursday. ... The Indians completed a 4-5 trip to Detroit, St. Louis and Cincinnati. They return home for six games against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. ... The Reds completed a 5-4 homestand and headed to New York for three games against the Mets. .. There has been at least one homer in each of the last 59 games at Great American Ball Park, the longest active streak in the majors. ... OF Chris Heisey left in the fifth with a mild groin strain.
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