CINCINNATI -- For much of the season, the Reds have been searching their own lineup for RBI men that aren't named Joey Votto.
While Votto's bat played a pivotal role again on Thursday, others stepped up, as well, in a 12-5 Reds win over the Indians for a three-game series sweep. Chief among the producers was Brandon Phillips for a second straight game.
One day after going 3-for-3 with three RBIs in Wednesday's victory, Phillips delivered three more hits, including a home run and four RBIs.
"Earlier, everybody was complaining about us not hitting the ball," Phillips said. "In due time, it takes time for people to come together and start getting hits. It's basically a pitching and defense team, but we can always hit. Once we start getting key hits in key situations, I feel like nobody can really beat us. We're starting to come around."
The Reds, who tied a season-high in runs scored and established a new season best with 17 hits, entered the day as a .230 hitting team with runners in scoring position. That even included Votto's .408 average and 32 RBIs in those situations. Nevertheless, they came in with a two-game lead in the National League Central.
In the three wins, the Reds outscored Cleveland, 24-9, and out-hit them by a 37-26 margin. They were 7-for-19 with runners in scoring position on Thursday, 12-for-39 for the series that finished a 5-4 home stand.
"I've always said this is a warm-weather team," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "The weather was certainly conducive for hitters these last three days. Hopefully, the weather stays hot and our bats get hotter."
Cleveland opened a quick 2-0 lead on starter Mike Leake when Shin-Soo Choo began the game with a homer to right field and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a double and later scored on a groundout.
Other than a second Choo homer leading off the top of the fifth inning and a two-run Cleveland seventh after the game was already a blowout, it was pretty much all Reds the rest of the day. Leake did not benefit from the victory, because he lasted only 4 1/3 innings while trying to bounce back from a stomach virus that pushed his scheduled start back one day. Jose Arredondo notched two outs in the fifth and was credited with the win.
"That's not the way you wanted to finish a road trip, but you've got to give them credit," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "They beat us on both sides of the ball. Their starters pretty much held our offense down and then they out-hit us, too."
In the bottom of the first, following singles by leadoff hitter Chris Heisey and Zack Cozart, Votto sent a 3-1 pitch from Josh Tomlin to center field for a three-run homer and 3-2 Cincinnati lead.
"It's not like I react when they put together some runs and all of a sudden you feel you need to bounce back right away," said Votto, who has a team-leading 12 homers and 44 RBIs this season. "You just have to put the pedal to the metal all the time and stay on it all the time. At some point, the better team will prevail."
Phillips delivered his second homer in as many games with a leadoff shot to left field in the third, his eighth long ball of the season. In the bottom of the fourth, following a two-out intentional walk to Votto that loaded the bases, Phillips made Cleveland pay. On an outside Tomlin pitch, Phillips lunged for the ball and pushed it into right field for a two-run single.
Votto leads the Majors with 11 intentional walks this season, and Phillips does take note.
"It's like more motivation to me," Phillips said. "I wasn't coming through at the beginning. I just started saying I need to show these guys that I can hit behind Joey. I'm not a typical No. 4 hitter. I did it before and it's not my first rodeo. Earlier, I wasn't doing my job. I can't do my job every day, but when we really need some RBIs, I feel like I'm the guy you can call on. I think I've been doing my job lately."
It was a 6-3 game when the Reds sent 11 men to the plate during a five-run fifth inning that featured Ryan Ludwick's two-run homer to left field off of lefty Scott Barnes. Despite a .215 average, Ludwick now has nine homers and 29 RBIs as a part-time player.
Later in the inning, following a one-out conventional walk to Votto that loaded the bases, Phillips' rolling single into left field scored another run. Phillips finished the series 8-for-12 and is now batting .356 lifetime against his former team.
Phillips has 38 RBIs this season.
"You look at Brandon, he had a great series," Baker said. "Everybody wants somebody else to bat cleanup, but this guy is closing in on 40 RBIs in his time and he's hitting [.292] batting cleanup. So other than Joey, he's the next best I think with runners in scoring position for a large number of opportunities. So it is nice to get him swinging good. Now, we've got to get some other guys [going], hopefully."