CINCINNATI -- Melky Cabrera did not get all of it, but he got just enough. The towering drive he sent arcing high over left field on Wednesday night found the first row of seats, continuing his recent hot streak and pushing Cleveland ahead for good.
On a long night at Great American Ball Park, Cabrera's two-run shot off lefty Cody Reed in the sixth inning served as the decisive blow in a 4-3 victory for the American League Central-leading Tribe. The home run helped the Indians sweep the three-game Interleague set and gave the club 10 wins in its past dozen games.
"He's gotten some big hits for us," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He cares, and he's given us a big lift."
For Cabrera, it was another step in helping provide some stability for the team's injury-riddled outfield.
Earlier this season, Cleveland lost center fielder Bradley Zimmer (right shoulder surgery) for the year. Outfielders Tyler Naquin (right hip surgery) and Lonnie Chisenhall (left calf strain) are also out, and their availability for the rest of the season is uncertain. The most recent blow involved recently acquired center fielder Leonys Martin, who is recovering from a serious bacterial infection at the Cleveland Clinic.
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The idea behind signing Cabrera to a Minor League contract in April was to inject some experienced depth behind the Major League roster. The Indians had no idea just how important that would become.
"I'm really happy to be here the second time around," said Cabrera, who was released June 18 and re-signed July 5. "I'm really thankful for the manager, and for the Cleveland Indians for giving me the opportunity to be here again."
Since being promoted from Triple-A Columbus on July 20, Cabrera has a .311/.363/.459 slash line in 74 at-bats. On Wednesday, his two-run home run took rookie Shane Bieber off the hook for the loss.
Bieber lasted 4 1/3 innings, bowing out after 90 pitches and three runs on seven hits. All the runs came in the first inning, when Scooter Gennett delivered an RBI single and Preston Tucker followed with a two-run homer that put the Reds up, 3-0.
The Indians chipped away at Cincinnati's lead, striking for two runs during Robert Stephenson's 1 2/3 innings. Rookie Greg Allen contributed an RBI single in the second, which also featured a run-scoring groundout courtesy of Francisco Lindor. Reed calmed things down during his 3 2/3 innings leading up to Cabrera's home run, which left his bat with a 40-degree launch angle and 99.7-mph exit velocity, and had a hit probability of 19 percent, per Statcast™.
"I really didn't think it was going out," Cabrera said. "I hit it really high in the air, but I knew I hit it pretty hard. I knew I made good contact, but no, at the beginning, I didn't think it was going out."
The metrics were rendered moot when the ball kept carrying, dropping just over the wall to propel the Tribe to victory.
"I almost pointed up the air like you do on routine fly balls," Reed said. "A lot of things could've happened that could've changed the outcome. I mean, he hit the ball over the fence, and it was enough to win the game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Billy's costly sprint: Reds speedster Billy Hamilton opened the ninth with a single and reached third on a ground-rule double from Jose Peraza. Joey Votto followed by chopping a pitch to Yonder Alonso and Hamilton sprinted for home, but Alonso got the throw to catcher Roberto Perez in plenty of time. Perez applied the tag, and Cincinnati's momentum took a big hit.
Alonso was surprised Hamilton went on the play.
"I picked it up and obviously I had to check everything, make sure [Hamilton] wasn't going home," Alonso said. "And then I saw him: He picked up the ball kind of late. After that, it's just basically routine. Just make sure you catch it, field it and just put a good throw on him."
Brad Hand then struck out Eugenio Suarez, worked around a walk and got Dilson Herrera to fly out to right to earn the save.
Sixth sense: Lefty Tyler Olson -- summoned from Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday to give the staff an extra arm for a few days -- opened the sixth with a pair of strikeouts. Olson then allowed a double to Peraza, bringing the always-dangerous Votto to the plate. Olson fell behind, 2-1, before generating two swinging strikes via a curveball and a four-seamer to retire Votto and escape unscathed.
For the fourth consecutive season, the Indians took home the Ohio Cup by finishing 4-2 in the season series against the Reds. Jose Ramirez was named the Most Outstanding Player in voting by Cincinnati and Cleveland writers after hitting .370 (10-for-27) with five home runs, two doubles and 11 RBIs in the series.
HE SAID IT
"I was pretty surprised. That ball was in front of him. It was hit OK, but it wasn't hit that hard. I was surprised he came home. That was good for us. Took a break right there." -- Perez, on Hamilton's scoring attempt in the ninth
Following an off-day Thursday, right-hander Carlos Carrasco (14-6, 3.50 ERA) is slated to start on Friday when the Indians host the Orioles in the opener of a three-game set at 7:10 p.m. ET at Progressive Field. In eight appearances since coming off the DL, Carrasco has gone 6-1 with a 2.00 ERA, 59 strikeouts and five walks in 45 innings. Baltimore will counter with righty David Hess (2-6, 6.25).