After a sharp rise in the standings, the Indians have taken a brief fall. And coming up against the powerful Reds in an in-state rivalry series this week is not making things any easier.
Cleveland had climbed to the top of the American League Central standings with a strong month of May, winning 18 of 22 from April 28-May 20. But they've lost four straight this week for only the second time this season, as the Tigers have returned to the top spot in the division.
The Tribe has its hands full this week with four games against the Reds, the second one coming on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park. The teams will then head back to Cleveland to play on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Reds are 40-42 all-time against the Indians, and the teams split the six-game series last year. But Cincinnati has won eight of the last 11 series.
It will be Cleveland right-hander Zach McAllister, who has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his nine starts this season, against Reds righty Mat Latos on Tuesday night.
Just as Latos has gotten some bad breaks in his starts this year, he's also been the beneficiary of some good ones. He has been the victim of three blown saves, but also has received good run support from his teammates.
Latos gave up six runs on May 11 against the Brewers and still won, and he's given up 16 total runs (15 earned) in four starts this month, but has gone 2-0 in those games.
He gave up a couple late runs in his last start against Matt Harvey and the Mets on Wednesday, and TV cameras caught Latos and teammate Jay Bruce having an animated discussion in the dugout following the fifth inning, when the Mets made it a 2-2 game on a sacrifice fly. Both players played it off afterward.
"Everything is fine," Bruce said. "It happens all the time. It's a non-story really."
Said manager Dusty Baker: "Latos was very good. We just have to get him over that hump at kind of the same time in the game. Some kind of way, adverse things happened around the seventh [inning] or that 100-pitch mark. He went into that inning with 88 pitches. We were hoping he could get through that inning and turn it over to our bullpen."
Reds: Phillips, Tribe meet again
• In 42 career appearances against his former team, Brandon Phillips is hitting .345 (57-for-165) with seven doubles, nine homers, 32 RBIs and six stolen bases.
Phillips was drafted by the Expos in the second round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, then traded to Cleveland in the 2002 deal that also sent Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore to the Indians. Phillips played 135 games over four seasons in Cleveland before being dealt to the Reds in 2006.
• Phillips is two home runs and six RBIs away from tying Joe Morgan for first all-time among Reds second basemen.
Indians: Pestano set to close
With closer Chris Perez on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder soreness, manager Terry Francona said setup man Vinnie Pestano will be called upon to finish games.
"He's comfortable slotting into that inning, and part of the reason we're doing that is it makes it so much easier for us if you have an end point to get to," Francona said Monday. "And we have plenty of depth. I still think having guys know [their role] really helps."
Pestano has served as a reliable setup man the past few years, but he has recently dealt with injury concerns as well. Earlier this month, the righty spent time on the 15-day DL with right elbow tendinitis and he has posted an 11.25 ERA (five earned runs in four innings) in four appearances since being activated.
"Vinnie's last couple outings since he's come back haven't been his best," Francona said. "But that will improve. And to be honest with you, Vinnie is going to pitch innings when the game's on the line. So if it's the seventh, eighth or ninth, we've got to get him out there."
With Pestano temporarily moving into the closer's role, Joe Smith (1.06 ERA) will likely be the primary eighth-inning arm. Cleveland on Monday promoted left-hander Nick Hagadone from Triple-A Columbus, giving the Tribe three lefties in the 'pen (Rich Hill and Scott Barnes are the others).
• Indians relievers have converted just one of their last seven save opportunities over 10 games after blowing three saves in the four-game series against the Red Sox.
• Latos has the second-best ERA at Great American Ball Park among pitchers with at least 10 starts (second to St. Louis' Chris Carpenter) with a 3.03 mark.
Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.