The visiting Indians look to complete the first season series sweep in the history of the Ohio Cup in Sunday's finale against the Reds.
Prior to Friday's opener at Great American Ball Park, Cleveland (44-37) had dropped six of nine to fall one-half game behind Detroit in the AL Central. The Indians have since pulled back ahead of the Tigers by winning the first two games of this series.
After Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Grady Sizemore and Travis Buck drove in two runs apiece during Friday's 8-2 victory, Michael Brantley hit a three-run homer for Cleveland in Saturday's 3-1 win. The Indians have opened July with back-to-back wins after going 10-17 in June.
"It can't get any worse than it got in June,'' manager Manny Acta said. "We're moving forward now.''
Brantley is batting .333 with six RBIs against the Reds this season, helping Cleveland outscore its in-state rival 30-12 and win the first five meetings.
The Indians are seeking their first sweep in Cincinnati since June 11-13, 1999, and neither team has ever swept the season series.
Cleveland managed to hang on Saturday despite starter Fausto Carmona leaving in the third inning with a strained right thigh, suffered on a fall while running out a grounder.
After Carmona departed, six Cleveland relievers combined to throw seven innings.
Mitch Talbot (2-4, 4.96 ERA) takes the ball in the series finale hoping to give the Indians bullpen some rest.
Talbot allowed three runs and three hits in five innings of Monday's 5-4 win over Arizona before being lifted for a pinch-hitter with a runner on third in the top of the sixth. Talbot wasn't credited with the victory for the Indians, who won with the right-hander on the mound for the first time in five starts. He hasn't earned a victory since May 31.
In his only career start against the Reds on June 27, 2010, Talbot gave up one run and three hits in seven innings of a 5-3 victory.
Cincinnati (42-42) is likely looking forward to the end of interleague play, having gone 5-12 against the AL - its most losses in one season in interleague play.
The Reds had several chances against Cleveland's bullpen Saturday but went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
"Our total game's not in sync,'' manager Dusty Baker said. "We're having trouble getting that big hit.''
Joey Votto, who could be named to the NL All-Star roster Sunday, is batting .254 against the AL compared to .333 versus NL pitchers. The reigning league MVP, who hit a solo shot Saturday, is batting .250 with two homers and four RBIs in the season series with the Indians.
Hoping to avoid losing three straight games for the first time since dropping a season-worst six in a row May 18-23, the Reds turn to Mike Leake (7-4, 3.89).
Leake scattered four hits and walked two in six innings of Monday's 5-0 win over Tampa Bay but wasn't completely satisfied with his outing.
"I kind of took a little step back as far as mechanics,'' he said. "I was a little disappointed on my first-pitch strikes. But putting up zeros, you can't complain.''
Leake can't complain about much lately, having gone 4-2 with a 2.49 ERA in seven starts since an early demotion to Triple-A Louisville.
The right-hander is 1-2 with a 2.88 ERA in four career interleague starts. This will be his first appearance against the Indians.