CLEVELAND – Before the game, Asdrubal Cabrera tossed tennis balls to his 3-year-old son, Meyer, who belted them around the field while wearing dad's No. 13.
Dad did the same thing to the Cincinnati Reds.
Cabrera went 5 for 5 with two homers and a career-high five RBIs as Cleveland completed a three-game sweep of Cincinnati, beating the reeling Reds 12-4 on Sunday to — at least for the moment — grab bragging rights as Ohio's best team.
Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the first inning off Edinson Volquez (3-2) for the Indians, who did early damage after winning the series' first two games with late-inning comebacks. Cabrera added a solo homer in the sixth to give Cleveland an 8-4 lead.
"He was a one-man show at the plate," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He was unbelievable. He was on every pitch, and he has played like an All-Star for us since Day One."
Michael Brantley, Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo — the top three hitters in Cleveland's lineup — went a combined 10 for 12 with six runs and nine RBIs as the Indians, now seen more as a contender than early season surprise, moved 14 games over .500 for time since 2007.
With its first sweep of the Reds in seven years, Cleveland improved baseball's best record to 29-15 — 18-4 at Progressive Field, tying the best home start in franchise history.
"They are tough at home," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They are playing good baseball. Whatever they needed, they got this series."
Carlos Carrasco (3-2) gave up four runs in six-plus innings, handing the Reds their fifth straight loss. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce hit solo homers off the right-hander, who was lucky that several line drives were hit directly at Cleveland fielders.
"We hit four, five, six balls well that on other days would have been doubles," Cincinnati outfielder Chris Heisey said. "That's baseball. You get days where you nub three or four and they go for hits. But Cleveland made some good plays."
After horsing around on the field with Meyer, who insisted that his dad pitch to him outside and not in the indoor cages, Cabrera's day against the Reds didn't start well. The steady shortstop made a throwing error on Drew Stubbs' grounder leading off, but he more than made up for it with his first five-hit, multihomer game. Cabrera also had an error in the sixth, but it didn't cause any harm.
The Indians missed Cabrera last season, when they lost 93 games. He was out two months after breaking his left forearm in a collision with former Indians third baseman Jhonny Peralta. Other than that, the 25-year-old Cabrera has been everything the Indians could have hoped for since they called him up in the 2007 playoff stretch.
Now healthy, there isn't a shortstop in the AL playing better.
"We think he's one of the best at his position," Acta said. "We're glad we have him."
Cabrera's name rarely, if ever, gets mentioned in discussions about the league's top shortstops. It might be time he's included in those conversations. He's batting .302 and leads the team with nine homers and 32 RBIs. This month, he's batting .360 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 18 games.
"I'm just trying to do good things for the team," said Cabrera, who doesn't worry about outside attention. "I'm just thinking about trying to win the game and do what I can do. And have fun."
The weekend series began ominously for Cleveland. On Friday, the club placed DH Travis Hafner on the disabled list with a strained side muscle, a move that came a few days after Grady Sizemore went on the DL with a bruised right kneecap.
Those were the first major signs of trouble for the Indians, who have shaken off losing two major pieces and continue to win over any lingering doubters.
"We've got a good team," Cabrera said. "We know it, and we just want to keep it going."
The Reds were within 8-4 in the seventh and had two runners on with none out, but Chad Durbin came on for Carrasco, struck out two and worked out of the jam.
The Indians then blew it open in their half on RBI doubles by Jack Hannahan and Brantley, Cabrera's run-scoring single and a sacrifice fly by Choo.
As has been the case all season, Volquez was in an early hole — and this time, the Reds helped him dig it.
The Indians scored four runs in the first against the right-hander, who has an 18.00 ERA in the opening inning, perhaps the main reason he has trailed in all 10 starts.
Brantley led off with an infield single, and Cabrera hit his eighth homer to make it 2-1. Choo followed with a double and moved up on a groundout before Travis Buck walked. With Orlando Cabrera batting, Buck broke for second, but stopped and got into a brief rundown.
Second baseman Brandon Phillips chased Buck but missed the tag before throwing home. Catcher Ramon Hernandez attempted to get Choo at third, but his throw sailed over Scott Rolen's head and rolled to the wall, allowing Choo and Buck to score easily.
Votto gave the Reds a 1-0 lead in the first with a 431-foot shot into the bleachers in left-center, an area rarely reached by left-handers. It was the reigning NL MVP's sixth homer — first since April 27.
Notes: Cleveland didn't win its 18th home game last season until July 16. ... Aroldis Chapman, on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation, will make a rehab start on Monday with Triple-A Louisville. Pitching coach Bryan Price said Chapman's control problems stemmed from him over-rotating his shoulder during his delivery. ... Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff said Sizemore will increase baseball activities the next three days. Soloff deemed it an "important milestone" in Sizemore's recovery. ... Indians RHP Josh Judy made his major league debut in the ninth. ... The "Ohio Showdown" series drew 99,086 — the Indians' highest weekend attendance since the final week in 2008.