Phillips, Latos help Reds extend division lead

Phillips, Latos help Reds extend division lead

Phillips, Latos help Reds extend division lead
CINCINNATI -- On April 7, 2006, the Indians traded Brandon Phillips to the Reds for a player to be named (pitcher Jeff Stevens).

Once again on Wednesday, Phillips came back to haunt his former team -- going 3-for-3 with three RBIs, including a two-run home run in the seventh inning that put the finishing touches on the Reds' 5-3 victory at Great American Ball Park.

Phillips, who also scored two runs, turned in a defensive gem for good measure as the three-time Gold Glove Award winner made a nice barehanded play to aid starter Mat Latos early on in the game.

"You've got to use every edge you can get," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I told him as soon as we started, 'You know we're playing the Indians, right?' He just sort of smiled. Whatever edge you can get, you've got to keep it."

Phillips is now hitting .347 with eight homers and 26 RBIs against his former team.

"I don't know why," said Phillips, who had two hits in Tuesday night's series opener. "I just try to go out there and get my job done. Hopefully positive things happen."

Phillips made an impact early with an RBI single in the opening frame that plated Wilson Valdez, who walked, from second.

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Meanwhile, Latos turned in the second straight quality outing by a Reds starter. Latos (5-2), whose start was moved up a day early due to a stomach virus that forced Mike Leake back a day, threw strong seven innings with seven strikeouts. He allowed two runs on seven hits.

"I know the feeling of Leake getting sick, so it was good to come out here and give him a little extra days' rest and pitch, so I was fine with it," said Latos, who threw 69 of his 99 pitches for strikes. "That's a good hitting ballclub and they make you pay when you miss your spots, so that was the one key thing. I wanted to get out there and get strike one and then stay in the zone a little bit."

With a clubhouse battling illness and a bullpen that's been struggling of late, Baker needed Latos to make an extended outing.

Latos was strong out of the gate, allowing just two singles through the first three innings, but received his first scare early in the fourth.

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis led off the inning with a bunt single that teasingly came to rest on the foul-line chalk. After Carlos Santana walked, Michael Brantley came to the plate.

Brantley singled to left field to load the bases and extend his hitting streak to 20 games -- the longest active streak in the Majors.

Latos struck out Johnny Damon for the first out, but still had his hands full with a bases-loaded jam.

The Indians could only muster one run from the opportunity on Casey Kotchman's fielder's choice, advancing Santana to third and scoring Kipnis to even the score at 1.

"We're not taking anything away from [Latos]. You can be Cy Young, but if you have the bases loaded with no outs, even by accident sometimes you end up scoring one or two runs," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "We did score one, but I just didn't think we took advantage of that situation."

The Reds regained the lead on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Ludwick in the fourth and Jay Bruce added a sac fly in the fifth to make it 3-1.

Damon's RBI groundout in the sixth got the Tribe within one, but Phillips' homer -- his seventh of the season -- stretched the Reds' lead to 5-2.

After starting the season 0-2 with 8.22 ERA, Latos has settled into his first year in Cincinnati, going 5-0 in his last 10 starts with a 3.73 ERA. Latos hasn't dropped a decision since April 18 against the Cardinals.

After Johnny Cueto's six-hitter Tuesday night and Latos' seven innings of work Wednesday, the Reds have only had to use two relievers in the series.

Lefty Sean Marshall threw one inning of hitless ball and fellow southpaw Aroldis Chapman recovered from his two losses last week to earn his seventh save of the season, despite giving up a solo homer to Jose Lopez in the ninth.

The Reds have a two-game lead over the Pirates atop the National League Central and will have nearly a full bullpen for the final game in the Ohio Cup series.

"It helps a lot. We only used two guys out of the 'pen for a short period of time and we're still in good shape tomorrow," Baker said. "Hopefully, Leake is well enough to give us a deep game [in Thursday's finale]. If not, then we have some length in our bullpen."

Mark Clements is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.