Reds, Indians begin battle for Ohio Cup

( - The Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians have been unable to declare a winner in the Ohio Cup series for two straight seasons.

With both teams in the playoff hunt, one team hopes that will change this week as the Indians and Reds begin a four-game home-and-home set on Monday evening in Cleveland.

The Indians took five of six from the Reds in 2011, but the clubs then split six meetings in 2012 and then four encounters a season ago. Cleveland will host the first two of this rivalry before the series shifts to Cincinnati for a pair of games beginning on Wednesday.

Cleveland comes in having won five of seven to sit three games back of a wild card spot in the American League, while Cincinnati took three of four over Miami to secure its first series victory since the All-Star break.

The Reds' second-half slump has dropped them 3 1/2 games out of a wild card spot.

Cincinnati lost seven straight and 10 of its first 12 following the All-Star break, but got on track in Miami. The Reds' lone loss of the set was a 2-1 decision in 10 innings on Saturday.

"We had a chance to take all four, and at least we got out of here with three out of four and that's always a good job," said Reds starter Mike Leake (9-9), who limited the Marlins to three hits and a run in six innings of a 7-3 win on Sunday.

Cleveland kept pace over the weekend with a three-game sweep of Texas, winning in dramatic fashion on Sunday. David Murphy tied the game with a two-run homer in the ninth inning and Michael Brantley connected on a walk-off solo shot in the 12th frame for a 4-3 win.

"Our pitching kept it close, Murph hits the ball out of the park and we get to keep playing," said Indians manager Terry Francona.

Francona now has the pleasure of handing the ball to Corey Kluber today and the righty has been red-hot over a five-game unbeaten streak. He has four victories and 43 strikeouts over that span, pitching into the ninth inning four times as well.

Kluber has logged consecutive nine-inning outings, taking a perfect-game bid into the seventh innings of a July 24 encounter with Kansas City. He ended up allowing just one unearned run and two hits in nine frames with 10 strikeouts as the Tribe lost in extra innings.

The 28-year-old then squared off with Seattle's Felix Hernandez on Wednesday and outdueled the former Cy Young winner while throwing his first career shutout. Kluber scattered three hits without a walk and struck out eight while needing just 85 pitches to go the distance.

"It's obviously a challenge going against one of the best pitchers in the game," said Kluber. "I think we all look forward to challenges. It was nice to come out on top."

Kluber is now 11-6 with a 2.61 earned run average on the year and faces the Reds for the first time.

Alfredo Simon watched the Reds shake off their second-half slump over the weekend and he hopes to do the same on the mound tonight. He has lost all three of his starts since the break, dropping to 12-6 with a 2.84 ERA.

The 33-year-old righty lasted just 4 1/3 innings in a setback to Washington on July 25, but rebounded to log seven frames of work on Wednesday against Arizona. He gave up only two runs, but dropped a 5-4 decision.

Simon is 1-1 with a 4.41 ERA in six lifetime meetings with the Indians, only one of those a start.