CLEVELAND -- Francisco Cordero might not have gotten an official save, but stopped the Cleveland Indians from completing a stunning ninth-inning rally.
Cordero yielded two runs before stranding two runners to help Johnny Cueto win his third straight start as the Cincinnati Reds held off the error-prone Cleveland Indians 6-4 on Saturday night.
"Boy, they battled back and Coco [Cordero] battled them, too," Reds manager Dusty Baker said before breathing a sigh of relief.
Laynce Nix homered for the third day in a row, Jay Bruce was 4 for 4 with two RBI and Brandon Phillips had two doubles and three runs for Cincinnati. The Reds claimed first place in the NL Central by a half-game over St. Louis and are 18-7 since opening the season 7-11.
Cueto (4-1) gave up four hits and two runs over six innings before leaving with a blistered finger. The right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA in his last five starts -- including a one-hit shutout of Pittsburgh on May 11.
"Johnny was dealing, but we had to get him out of there," Baker said.
Cueto said he thinks he will be able to make his next start.
Starter Fausto Carmona (4-2) took the loss as Cleveland made three errors in its season-high sixth straight setback to drop deeper into last place in the AL Central.
"Fausto had a hard time getting the ball down," manager Manny Acta said. "His slider was a little flat. Those left-handed hitters made him pay."
Nix, Bruce and Joey Votto went 5 for 8 with a walk against Carmona.
Reds reliever Nick Masset came on and got Jhonny Peralta on a called third strike with two runners on to end the eighth and keep it at 6-2.
"I was able to throw a curveball for a strike with the count 3-2," Masset said. "You don't want to walk a guy there."
In the ninth, Trevor Crowe's two-run, bases-loaded single off Cordero made it 6-4. Cordero, pitching for the third straight day and in a non-save situation, then got Shin-Soo Choo on a called strike to end a 10-pitch at-bat. Austin Kearns hit the next pitch to right fielder Bruce to end it.
"It was a close pitch, but a strike," Acta said of the pitch to Choo, who hit two homers on Friday night. "That's what we wanted, our best hitter at the plate. We got it. He had a good at-bat, but Francisco got him."
Cordero was proud of the result, even if he took a long route to get there.
"I was throwing good pitches, but they kept fouling them off," he said after making 36 pitches. "That was the best I've felt. It was big. I didn't want to give up a game again."
On Thursday, Cordero yielded a walkoff grand slam in a 10-9 loss at Atlanta. Friday night, he worked a perfect ninth to save a 7-4 win over the Indians.
"The entire team put that loss behind us," Votto said. "We have complete confidence in Cordero."
The Reds have won 11 of 14 from their in-state rival since 2008 and lead the all-time series 33-32.
Travis Hafner's two-out, two-run homer got Cleveland within 5-2 in the sixth. Cueto then walked Peralta and had a 2-1 count on Matt LaPorta when Baker and trainer Paul Lessard went out to check on the pitcher. Cueto got LaPorta to pop out on the next pitch.
"He kept shaking his hand all inning and you could tell something was wrong," Baker said.
Bruce's third straight single gave the Reds a 6-2 lead in the seventh. He added a double in the ninth.
Votto and Bruce had RBI singles in the first off Carmona. Votto moved into scoring position on a throwing error by center fielder Crowe on his hit and scored an unearned run on Bruce's line single.
Votto singled to open the fourth, stole second and took third on a throwing error by Mike Redmond. That snapped the veteran's major league record for catchers at 253 consecutive errorless games since July 22, 2004.
One out later, Nix homered into the right-field seats to make it 4-0.
Phillips reached on an error by third baseman Peralta in the fifth and eventually scored on Scott Rolen's sacrifice fly.
Acta said OF Grady Sizemore, on the disabled list with a bruised left knee, is "visiting doctors" to determine the best treatment. Acta hopes for an update early next week. ... Cleveland signed veteran INF Josh Phelps to a contract with Triple-A Columbus. The 32-year-old played 24 games for the Indians in 2004 and has 64 career homers for six MLB teams since 2000. ... Former Ohio State and Cincinnati Bengals star Archie Griffin, the two-time Heisman Trophy winner, threw out a ceremonial first pitch. ... Baker said 40-year-old LHP Arthur Rhodes, who pitched three straight days, was unavailable Saturday. ... Nix is 8 for 13 (.615) with three homers, six runs and seven RBIs in his last three games.