Indians-Reds Preview

The Associated Press

Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips, who made his major league debut with Cleveland a decade ago, always seems to enjoy facing the Indians.

Cleveland's Josh Tomlin, meanwhile, is big fan of interleague play for multiple reasons.

Phillips looks to continue to frustrate his former team and help the NL Central-leading Reds complete the sweep in Thursday's finale against Tomlin, who tries to remain undefeated against the NL.

Cincinnati (34-27) has been hit hard by a stomach virus, but Phillips has, so far, managed to avoid the illness. He had two hits in Tuesday's series-opening 7-1 victory and belted a two-run homer - one of his three hits - and drove in three runs in Wednesday's 5-3 win.

It was the fifth multihit game in the last seven contests for Phillips, who is batting .414 during that span. He is also hitting .377 with four home runs, 11 RBIs and has scored 15 times in his last 15 games versus Cleveland.

"To tell you the truth, man, I don't know why,'' Phillips said of his success against the Indians, who traded him to Cincinnati prior to the 2006 season. "I just go out there and try to get the job done.''

The Reds have won the last three in the series and are seeking their first sweep over the Indians since 2008.

Cleveland's Michael Brantley has also been swinging a hot bat. He singled Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 20 games, matching the longest in the majors this season. It's the longest by an Indian since Casey Blake hit in 26 straight in 2007.

Brantley is batting .346 with 15 RBIs during his run, and has also hit safely in eight career games against the Reds, batting .313 with six RBIs. He is 1 for 2 with a double against probable starter Mike Leake (2-5, 4.97 ERA), who was originally scheduled to pitch Wednesday but was pushed back a day because he was still weak from the illness.

"My stomach is better,'' Leake said prior to Wednesday's game. "My legs feel weak. It's going in the right direction though.''

Facing Cleveland (32-29) could be just the remedy Leake needs given that the Indians have combined for eight runs while batting .201 in their last four games. Although Cleveland hasn't had much success lately, Leake will need to be mindful of pitching to his counterpart, quite the rarity when facing an AL team.

Tomlin (3-3, 4.96) prides himself on his hitting, and is 3 for 5 at the plate in his career, which accounts for half of the hits by Indians pitchers since the start of last season. He also holds up quite well on the mound against NL teams, going 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA in five career interleague starts.

In a 6-2 win in St. Louis on Friday, the right-hander pitched shutout ball into the seventh and also singled.

"Being in the AL, we don't get to do this kind of stuff,'' said Tomlin, who allowed two runs and eight hits in seven innings. "I like being a part of the game both on the offensive and defensive side.''

This will be his first opportunity to bat at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. In his only outing against the Reds on May 21, 2011, Tomlin permitted a run and three hits in seven innings of a 2-1 victory.

In Leake's lone start against the Indians last July, he gave up four runs and four hits with a career high-tying eight strikeouts in a 7-5 home win.

At home against Pittsburgh last Thursday, Leake gave up four runs and seven hits without a walk in seven innings of a 5-4, 10-inning loss. The righty was 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA in his previous four outings.

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