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Votto, Reds open series vs. Pirates

Apr 9, 2009 - 10:31 PM By Nicolino DiBenedetto Stats Writer

Pittsburgh (2-2) at Cincinnati (1-2), 7:10 p.m. EDT

CINCINNATI (AP) -- After helping Cincinnati salvage a victory in its season-opening series, Joey Votto looks to continue his hot hitting Friday night when the Reds open a three-game home set against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Votto is 7-for-13 with two homers and seven RBIs through three games after a breakthrough season in 2008. The first baseman led NL rookies with a .297 average and 24 homers while adding a team-best 84 RBIs.

This season, Votto has picked up where he left off and went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs in an 8-6 win over New York on Thursday.

"This year, I wanted to play well, not just because I know I'm an important part of the team, but because I want to help the team win," Votto said.

Cincinnati (1-2) has scored 15 runs in the last two games, thanks mostly to Votto. He has seven RBIs, two homers and four runs over that span.

"It doesn't matter where they're coming from," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Most of them are coming from Votto. He's hot."

He's been that way against the Pirates throughout his career, batting .395 (17-for-43) with two homers and six RBIs in 12 games.

Johnny Cueto (9-14, 4.81 ERA), another of the Reds' top young players, looks to get his season off to a strong start as he takes the ball Friday.

Cueto was inconsistent as a rookie last season, but he didn't get much offensive help in his final seven starts. The right-hander went 2-3 with a 3.97 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 34 innings during that span, but got more than two runs of support just once.

That followed a six-start stretch in which Cueto went 0-3 with a 6.17 ERA while striking out 38 in 35 innings.

Cueto is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 16 innings over three starts versus Pittsburgh. In his only home start against them May 27, he allowed three runs and nine hits with four strikeouts in five innings of a 9-6 victory.

Cueto went 1-1 with a 1.57 ERA in five spring training games - four starts.

The Pirates (2-2) are looking to rebound from Thursday's 2-1 loss at St. Louis, as they managed one hit after getting 17 in a 7-4 victory a night earlier.

Pittsburgh will start Jeff Karstens (2-6, 4.03 ERA), who was named the team's fifth starter April 1. Karstens, though, hardly earned the spot, going 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA while allowing 30 hits in 23 1-3 innings over seven spring training games.

"There's still some stuff I've got to work on, we all know that,"' said Karstens, acquired in a six-player trade with the New York Yankees on July 26. "They've given me this opportunity and it's my job to run with it. If I don't, I know somebody else is going to be waiting in the wings."

The right-hander won his first two starts with Pittsburgh in impressive fashion, throwing 16 shutout innings. On Aug. 6, he pitched 7 2-3 perfect innings at Arizona and recorded his first career complete game.

However, he went 0-6 with a 5.70 ERA in his next seven starts, including a 5-1 loss to Cincinnati on Aug. 12. He allowed four runs and seven hits - two homers - in seven innings of that outing.