Manager Terry Francona 's club, meanwhile, has more than held its own without him.
Choo faces his former team for the first time as these Ohio rivals open a unique four-game set Monday at Great American Ball Park.
After spending the previous six-plus seasons with Cleveland (27-22), Choo was sent to Cincinnati (31-19) as part of a three-team trade in December. The South Korea native, who can become a free agent after this season, is hitting .285 with a team-leading nine homers and 37 runs scored from the leadoff spot. He is, however, just 1 for his last 21.
"I think he's fit in real well," general manager Walt Jocketty told the team's official website. "He's really become a great teammate that I think is well admired by his teammates. He's been just a big plus to our club. He is the lift we were looking for, offensively."
Despite losing Choo, Cleveland ranks near the top of the majors in almost every offensive category, including runs (248) homers (64) and slugging percentage (.452). The second-place Indians sit 1 1/2 games behind AL Central-leading Detroit.
"I hope they play good all year," Choo said. "The last three or four years, they'd play good the first half and the start of the second go down. But I think they're a better team this year. ... Hopefully they keep playing well."
Contrary to Choo's remarks, Cleveland is mired in a 1-5 slump after dropping three straight at Boston. The Indians appeared headed for a victory Sunday before giving up four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-5 walkoff loss.
Things aren't about to get any easier against the Reds, who have taken four straight and 12 of 16 in the series at home. These clubs play again Tuesday in Cincinnati before shifting the series to Cleveland for two games.
"It's just two good teams playing against each other who happen to be in the same state," Indians pitcher Justin Masterson said. "I think the National League-American League thing, it's not (big) for the players. It's not as big and as crazy as what some would think."
Cincinnati had won five straight and 12 of 14 before suffering a 5-4, 10-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.
"This one got away," manager Dusty Baker said. "We'll start a new streak tomorrow. We've been playing good ball."
The Reds, who haven't dropped back-to-back games since April 30-May 1, will try to bounce back behind Mike Leake (4-2, 3.25 ERA). After allowing nine hits over 6 2-3 innings during a 4-0 victory at Miami on May 15, Leake threw seven innings of three-hit ball in Tuesday's 4-0 road win over the New York Mets .
"The guy has worked hard," Baker said. "He's throwing the ball as well as anybody we have."
The Indians counter with Ubaldo Jimenez (3-3, 6.04), who had gone 3-0 with a 1.90 ERA in his previous four starts before allowing six runs over four innings Wednesday in an 11-7 loss to Detroit.
Jimenez is 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA over five matchups against the Reds, but he hasn't faced them since 2010. Brandon Phillips is 2 for 13 in their matchups.
Jimenez, though, will need to be wary of Joey Votto , who's 5 for 12 against him. Votto is hitting .463 with four homers, 17 runs and 10 RBIs over his last 14 games.
Cleveland's Drew Stubbs , acquired in the Choo trade, is 3 for his last 23.
The Indians placed closer Chris Perez on the 15-day disabled list Monday with right shoulder soreness, one day after he left their game at Boston in the ninth inning. This is his first trip to the DL in more than four seasons.
|May 26, 2013||Chris Perez||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right shoulder discomfort|
|May 01, 2013||Vinnie Pestano||15-Day DL||Right elbow tendinitis|
|May 01, 2013||Vinnie Pestano||15-Day DL||Right elbow soreness|
|April 30, 2013||Nick Swisher||Day-to-Day||Sore left shoulder|
|April 25, 2013||Lou Marson||15-Day DL||Right shoulder soreness|
|April 20, 2013||Asdrubal Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - left wrist contusion|
|May 21, 2013||Sean Marshall||15-Day DL||Sprained left shoulder|
|April 27, 2013||Chris Heisey||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|April 27, 2013||Chris Heisey||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained hamstring|
|April 24, 2013||Manny Parra||15-Day DL||Strained left pectoral muscle|
|April 24, 2013||Manny Parra||15-Day DL||Strained left pectoral muscle|
|April 22, 2013||Jonathan Broxton||Day-to-Day||Bruised right hand|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- A medium-deep fly ball by Joey Votto would've done the trick. He did better than that.
Votto hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth inning, lifting the Cincinnati Reds over the Cleveland Indians 4-2 Monday in the opener of their intrastate matchup.
"I just wanted to put the barrel on the ball and at least get a sacrifice fly," said Votto, who began the day leading the NL in hitting at .353. "It was important to not strike out there or roll over and put the ball on the ground."
Votto won this interleague game with his ninth homer, tagging left-hander Nick Hagadone (0-1). The reliever was called up from Triple-A earlier in the day when closer Chris Perez was put on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder.
Shin-Soo Choo led off the Reds' eighth with a single and moved around on a passed ball and Zack Cozart 's sacrifice bunt. With the Indians' infield drawn in, Votto followed with an opposite-field shot into the seats in left, lifting the Reds to their sixth win in their last seven games.
Votto's homer came with NL RBIs leader Brandon Phillips on deck, followed a conference on the mound. Reds manager Dusty Baker was asked if he was surprised first-year Cleveland manager Terry Francona pitched to Votto instead of perhaps walking him to face Phillips, who'd already hit into one double play in the game.
"I never second-guess the other team's manager," Baker said. "You've got to take your shot at some point in the game. Votto won that time."
The conversation dealt with how to approach Votto, Francona said.
"Hagadone has great stuff," he said. "We wanted to pound Votto inside and not let him get his arms extended. It's part of the learning experience, but a pitcher also has to pitch to a comfort zone. If we'd have walked him, it wouldn't have been the end of the world."
Hagadone refused to blame his inexperience.
"It was supposed to be a fastball away," he said. "Even if I'd been up here all year, I'd have been upset."
Choo, traded from the Indians to the Reds in the offseason, also hit a leadoff homer in the first.
Jason Giambi tied it in the Indians' eighth with a long pinch-hit homer. The solo shot was estimated at 467 feet and caromed off the batter's background in center field. His ninth career pinch-hit homer ended his 0-for-24 slump and was third homer of the season and first since April 20.
Jonathan Broxton (2-1) got two outs in the eighth. Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth for his 13th save, clinching the Indians' fourth consecutive loss and sixth in their last seven games.
Reds starter Mike Leake allowed one earned run and five hits in 7 1-3 innings, striking out seven to match his season high. He left with a no-decision after giving up Giambi's homer.
"Even that pitch wasn't a bad pitch," Leake said. "He did a very good job with it. I thought I did a pretty good job today, as a whole. That's a very good lineup. I was going after them, trying to make them hit my pitch."
Leake had complete-game stuff, Votto said.
"It's a shame Jason hit that ball," Votto said. "If it doesn't, maybe (Leake) finishes the game, but Jason's been around."
Ubaldo Jimenez , 3-0 in five previous career starts against Cincinnati, gave up four hits and two runs in seven innings.
Choo, sent to the Reds with infielder Jason Donald and cash for outfielder Drew Stubbs and infielder Didi Gregorius in December, led with his 10th homer of the season.
The Indians took advantage of an error by Phillips, another former Indians player, to tie it in the fourth.
Jason Kipnis singled and took third when Phillips mishandled Nick Swisher 's grounder. Carlos Santana 's sacrifice fly made it 1-all.
Cozart led off the sixth with a double that just nicked the outside of the left-field line, advanced on Votto's groundout to second and scored on Phillips' sacrifice fly.
NOTES: The Reds improved to 40-42 in their inter-league series with the Indians. ... The sellout crowd was the fourth straight for the Reds, the second time they'd had four consecutive sellout crowds since moving from Crosley Field in 1970 and the first time since 2004. ... Reds RHP Mat Latos (4-0) will try to stay undefeated in the second game of the brief two-game series on Tuesday. He'll be opposed by Cleveland RHP Zach McAllister (4-3).