CINCINNATI -- Zack Cozart is known for prowess on defense, not power his at the plate. However, the Cincinnati Reds shortstop will contribute however he can.
"I try to leave the park every day knowing I did something to help the team," Cozart said.
On Wednesday night, Cozart clubbed a three-run homer while also shining on defense, lifting the Reds to an 8-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians in the opener of a two-game series at Great American Ball Park.
It was the third consecutive game between the in-state, interleague opponents who split a two-game series at Progressive Field on Monday and Tuesday.
In addition to his homer, Cozart contributed a couple dazzling plays at shortstop, including a leaping snag of catcher Yan Gomes' line drive to begin the third.
"That's the thing that keeps me sane," Cozart said of his defense. "That's what I hang my hat on."
Second baseman Kristopher Negron collected a career-high three hits including a two-run homer for the Reds (58-56), who are 15-5 all time against Cleveland at Great American Ball Park.
Cincinnati starter Mat Latos (4-3) allowed three runs and six hits in 7 2/3 innings.
"You get excited when you have a five-run lead, but you still have to bear down," said Latos, who criticized himself for poor pitch selection during the Indians' three-run eighth. "I got a little aggravated at myself. Getting strike one was key for me tonight, pounding the zone."
Gomes led off the eighth with his 16th home run for Cleveland, which also got a two-run double by pinch hitter Ryan Raburn to cut the Reds' lead to five.
Gomes went 2-for-4 with a double and a homer, and second baseman Jason Kipnis finished 3-for-4 for the Indians (57-57).
Aside from a rocky eighth, Latos kept Cleveland at bay.
"He leverages the ball downhill and gets strike one," Indians manager Terry Francona said about Latos. "Once he can do that, he can use both halves of the plate."
Negron doubled and scored Cincinnati's sixth run on Cozart's bloop single off Scott Atchison in the seventh. A two-run double by third baseman Todd Frazier off Marc Rzepczynski made the score 8-0.
Earlier, the struggles continued for Cleveland's rotation.
After giving up five runs, all on two homers, in four innings, Indians starter Danny Salazar (4-5) was optioned to Triple-A Columbus, primarily due to off days coming up.
"Overall, he was better than his line score," Francona said of Salazar. "He made two costly mistakes to the bottom of the order."
Salazar, who was averaging 9.82 strikeouts per nine innings, came out firing, reaching 98 mph while striking out two in the first inning.
However, after fooling several Reds batters with off-speed pitches, Salazar didn't get away with an 87 mph slider to Cozart in the second inning. The shortstop launched a 2-2 pitch off the left field foul pole for a three-run homer, putting Cincinnati ahead 3-0.
"I didn't throw too many pitches today," Salazar said. "I left a couple of balls a little high. I was trying to throw a slider down and away (to Cozart). I just missed my spot."
It was only the third home run of the season for Cozart, his first since June 1.
Negron launched a two-run homer, his third, off Salazar with two outs in the fourth, increasing the lead to 5-0.
"Another one of those games where we get an early lead," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It's a difference-maker ... when you take advantage of opportunities to score early in the game with our pitching staff."
NOTES: Following Wednesday's game, Indians RHP Danny Salazar was optioned to Triple-A Louisville and RHP C.C. Lee was recalled. ... Major League Baseball and the Reds unveiled the official logo for the 2105 All-Star Game, which will be played in Cincinnati. ... Cleveland's Nick Swisher played left field for the first time since 2009. He previously made 110 career appearances in left. ... Reds 2B Brandon Phillips, on the disabled list since July 11 with a torn thumb ligament, is taking ground balls but hasn't swung a bat. "All great news to see him on the ballfield doing baseball activity," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It's still a little ways off, but hopefully not as far as we thought initially." ... Indians RHP Josh Tomlin, who gave up six runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings Tuesday in a 9-2 loss to Cincinnati, is moving to the bullpen. ... Reds C Brayan Pena went 2-for-4, extending his hitting streak to 11 games.