Reds-Pirates Preview

NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
The Associated PressMay 4, 2012

Johnny Cueto is off to the best start of his career, and a meeting with the Pittsburgh Pirates may just keep him rolling.

Cueto looks to match his longest unbeaten run as the Cincinnati Reds open a three-game road series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.

Cueto (3-0, 1.39 ERA) has won all five decisions with a 2.28 ERA over his last 12 starts dating to a road loss to the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 6.

Cincinnati (12-12) has won 10 of the right-hander's starts in that stretch, including four of five in 2012.

Cueto's longest unbeaten run in his four-plus years in the majors is a stretch of six winning decisions over nine starts from April 30-June 12, 2010.

"He's going to give you everything he's got every time he goes out there," right fielder Jay Bruce told the team's official website. "It feels good to go out to the game, and watching this guy, you feel like you're going to win. You feel like if you give him the ball, he'll keep you in the game the entire time."

Cueto, among baseball's ERA leaders this season, tossed another gem Saturday by scattering five hits in seven innings of a 6-0 win over Houston.

"He competes," manager Dusty Baker said. "This guy comes to beat you."

He's done a lot of that against the Pirates (11-14), going 10-3 with a 2.70 ERA and winning six consecutive decisions with a 1.64 ERA in his last seven starts at Pittsburgh. That includes a one-hitter on May 11, 2010.

Joey Votto also thrives at PNC Park, hitting .362 with three homers and 26 RBIs in 29 career visits. The first baseman enters this series with a .333 average, one homer and six RBIs in the past seven games.

Votto had two hits Thursday, when the Reds used a three-run ninth before Scott Rolen's walkoff sacrifice fly capped a 4-3, 10-inning win over Chicago.

Cincinnati has won three of four, but was 5-10 against the Pirates last year.

Pittsburgh is opening a nine-game homestand after concluding a 3-4 trip in impressive fashion with Thursday's 6-3 win at St. Louis. The Pirates' staff totaled 17 strikeouts for their highest total since getting 18 in a 20-inning win over the Cubs on July 6, 1980.

Strikeouts are likely to be at a premium for the Pirates as Kevin Correia (1-1, 2.42) takes the mound looking to rebound from his worst performance of the season.

The right-hander has nine strikeouts in 22 1-3 innings over four starts, failing to get any in a 4-3 loss at Atlanta on Sunday. It was his shortest outing of 2012, as he was pulled with one out in the fifth after allowing three runs with five walks.

Correia, though, is 6-0 with a 4.26 ERA in 10 career starts against Cincinnati.

Andrew McCutchen is looking to continue his success against the Reds in order to snap out of his 2-for-13 slump over the past four contests.

The center fielder is 8 for 23 with two doubles, one triple, one homer and five RBIs in his past seven home meetings with Cincinnati.

Jose Tabata has been hot of late, hitting .359 with four doubles and eight runs in nine games. He has a .333 average in 14 games against the Reds, but has never faced Cueto.