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PIT@CIN: Cueto strikes out career-high 12 in shutout

Last week, when the Reds and Pirates met in Cincinnati, Johnny Cueto bested a good friend in fellow Dominican Francisco Liriano. On Tuesday, Cueto will duel with another buddy and countryman in former teammate Edinson Volquez.

Both Cueto (1.50 ERA) and Volquez (1.71 ERA) are off to nice starts to their seasons for their respective clubs.

Cueto dealt a three-hit shutout with no walks and 12 strikeouts to beat Liriano and the Pirates on Wednesday by a 4-0 score. Lifetime against Pittsburgh, he is 15-7 with a 2.22 ERA over 22 games -- including a 1.90 ERA over 13 games at PNC Park.

"When you say Johnny Cueto, that's a heavy pitcher," Reds catcher Brayan Pena said of Cueto's status in the league. "That's a guy that everybody knows who he is and everybody recognizes him, especially with that hair. He just competes and competes and competes. He goes out there and he battles. His confidence level is very high. It's good when you're behind the plate that his confidence level is so high that whatever you put down, he trusts."

Volquez, who pitched for the Reds from 2008-11 and won 17 games during his first season with the club, was an 11-2 winner over the Brewers on Saturday. He allowed two earned runs and eight hits over seven innings with one walk and three strikeouts.

In his career against the Reds, Volquez is 1-0 with a 3.93 ERA in three starts.

Reds: Mesoraco made adjustments
Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco is off to the best start of his young big league career, and the best stretch he's ever had. There weren't many wholesale changes to his hitting approach since last season, but some minor changes in working with new hitting coach Don Long.

"We wanted to get more athletic and not as mechanical as what I have been in the past. In Spring Training, I knew it was coming and I was pretty close," Mesoraco said.

Mesoraco felt things really started clicking after his rehab assignment at Double-A Pensacola and a conversation with Blue Wahoos manager Delino DeShields.

"I was talking with Delino a little bit and he told me to stand a little bit more upright and see how it feels," Mesoraco said. "That's when I started to stand upright and sink into my swing. I think that really freed everything up and allowed me to be more athletic. You definitely have to give him some credit for picking that out. It's a lot of little adjustments that make a big difference."

Pirates: Walker doing things 'right'
Neil Walker has heard so much criticism of his ability to hit right-handed that, by now, the words just roll off the switch-hitter's back. But something else that lately has rolled off his bat: hits off lefties. Walker is 5-for-12 batting righty, with already more extra-base hits (two, a double and a homer) than he had all last season.

"In today's day and age, with all the stats and numbers, [the focus on the splits] doesn't surprise me," Walker said. "I've learned to just ignore it. People are going to tell me how bad I stink right-handed, I don't really care. I could care less, because I know I can hit right-handed, it's just a matter of having the quantity of at-bats to stay sharp."

In 2013, Walker faced righties (457 plate appearances) about five times as often as southpaws (94).

Worth noting
Monday marked the 800th start that Reds first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips have made together. Comments