With the defeat, the Indians slipped to 4-4 on their current nine-game trek through Detroit, St. Louis and Cincinnati with one game left.
"Any time you get to the end of a long road trip," Indians starter Derek Lowe said, "it gets long for everybody. You just have to dig deep as much as you possibly can for tomorrow and try to salvage one win here."
Lowe (7-5) did his part in putting the Indians (32-29) in a position to rally on Wednesday, turning in six solid innings despite an overflow of traffic on the basepaths. The veteran sinkerballer allowed 12 hitters to reach base via walks (six), hits (five) and hit-by-pitch (one), but did well in exercising damage control.
"If you look at the game, it's about the best you could hope for, really," Lowe said. "A lot of baserunners and you come out with only having given up three runs. That's pretty hard to do."
Led by Latos (5-2), however, the National League Central-leading Reds (34-27) found ways to keep the Tribe in check. The biggest missed chance, as far as Indians manager Manny Acta was concerned, came in the fourth inning. Trailing just 1-0 at the time, Cleveland loaded the bases with no outs.
After Johnny Damon struck out, Casey Kotchman used a run-scoring fielder's choice groundout to pull the game into a 1-1 deadlock. Latos then induced a rally-killing groundout off the bat of Lonnie Chisenhall to escape further harm.
"You can be Cy Young," Acta said, "but if you have the bases loaded with no outs, even by accident sometimes you end up scoring one or two runs. We did score one, but I just didn't think we took advantage of that situation."
Acta was pleased with the outing from Lowe, who limited Cincinnati to three runs in his time on the hill. It was the offense's lack of production -- Cleveland ended the evening 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position -- that was disappointing to the manager. Latos earned the win after giving up two runs over seven innings.
"We just couldn't execute offensively," Acta said. "That pretty much killed us. That fourth inning, when we had the bases loaded, and ended up scoring only one run, I thought that was our opportunity to do some damage.
"If you want to win a ballgame, you ought to be able to score more than one run with the bases loaded and no outs. Unfortunately, we didn't do it."
Following Latos' exit, the Tribe's lone breakthrough came in the ninth inning, when Jose Lopez drilled a 100-mph fastball from closer Aroldis Chapman for a solo home run. It was a classic case of too little, too late for Cleveland.
On the other side, though, Phillips thrived in the role of villain.
In the first inning, Phillips connected on a pitch from Lowe for an RBI single to give the Reds a quick 1-0 lead. Phillips opened the fourth with a single and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Ryan Hanigan. Then, in the seventh, Phillips pounded 2-1 offering from Indians lefty Nick Hagadone to left for a two-run home run.
"He's a good hitter," Hagadone said. "When you put yourself in bad counts, it's hard to get those guys out."
In the second inning, Phillips flashed the type of defense that has helped him collect two National League Gold Glove Awards. With one out, Chisenhall chopped a pitch up the middle. Phillips sprinted to his right, snared the ball with a barehanded grab and threw Chisenhall out at first base for a highlight-reel play.
Phillips' 3-for-3 performance improved his career showing against the Indians to .347 (50-for-144) with eight home runs and 26 RBIs through 37 games. Phillips was traded by Cleveland to Cincinnati in exchange for a player to be named (pitcher Jeff Stevens) on April 7, 2006.
If Phillips has any leftover bitterness about being dealt, he downplays it now.
"I just try to go out there and get my job done," said Phillips, when asked about his success against his old team. "Hopefully positive things happen."