CINCINNATI (AP) — This Cleveland-versus-Cincinnati series will be remembered for an inside fastball and a wagging finger.
Don’t overlook that sweep, though.
Brandon Phillips hit one of Cincinnati’s three homers and drove in four more runs on Thursday afternoon, leading the ailing Reds to a 12-5 victory and their first three-game sweep of the Indians since 2008.
Joey Votto and Ryan Ludwick also homered for the Reds, who had a season-high 17 hits.
“What a series!” Ludwick said. “What a win!”
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 Reds manager Dusty Baker, getting hit in the arm by a pitch during a 5-3 win on Wednesday night. Phillips wasn’t aware of why Lowe hit him.
“To be honest, I don’t even know what he said,” Phillips said. “We won. We’re in first place, that’s all I care about. We’re too busy winning.”
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. 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.
“Not the way you wanted to finish a road trip,” manager Manny Acta said. “You’ve got to give them credit. They beat us on both sides of the ball. Their starters pretty much held our offense down, and they out-hit us, too.”
Phillips was upset at his treatment in Cleveland before he was traded to Cincinnati. He has mellowed over the years, but got a lot of enjoyment out of beating his former team.
“Deep down, it feels good to beat up on the Tribe,” Phillips said. “But they’re moving in the right direction. Manny Acta’s a good coach — I mean manager — and the majority of the guys who are there are new. So, go Tribe.”
There’s plenty of intrigue for the rematch by Lake Erie next week.
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 two solo homers by Shin-Soo Choo, in 4 1-3 innings.
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.