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MIA@CIN: Cueto pitches seven scoreless innings

The Cardinals were thought to face a bumpy road following significant roster changes over the winter. However, six games into the 2012 season, it appears nothing has changed for the defending World Series champions. The Cardinals enter Wednesday's series finale with the Reds once again setting the pace in the National League Central with a 5-1 record.

Cardinals' first-year manager Mike Matheny will hand the ball to Jaime Garcia, who continued his consistent ways with a sharp season debut. The left-hander earned the victory last Friday by limiting the Brewers to two runs on five hits over six innings.

The Reds have often found themselves on the wrong end of Garcia's success. Garcia owns a 6-1 record and 3.13 career ERA in nine appearances (seven starts) against Cincinnati, with 37 strikeouts and 16 walks in 46 innings.

Offense has been an issue for the Reds in this series. Dusty Baker's club has been held to just two runs and seven hits over the first two games. The Cincinnati skipper acknowledged his lineup -- which scored 13 runs in the club's first three games -- needs to find a spark against a formidable opponent.

"One of their main weapons is they've got good starting pitching. We just have to figure them out," Baker said. "We've got some guys struggling right now at the plate. And we just have to relax and do what we're capable of doing."

Yet, Johnny Cueto could provide enough breathing room for a struggling lineup. Cueto, who held the Marlins to three hits over seven scoreless innings en route to a win last Thursday, found a successful formula against the Cardinals in 2011. The right-hander went 1-1 with a 2.60 ERA in four starts against St. Louis last season.

Cardinals: Beltran picking up the slack
Offense was a concern for the Cardinals following the departure of Albert Pujols, but Carlos Beltran is certainly easing the transition. Beltran smacked his third home run of the season Tuesday night, and is now hitting .320 (8-for-25) with four RBIs. Beltran has hit safely and scored at least one run in four of six games to start the year.

Reds: Cozart cruising
Zack Cozart has been red-hot since making his first Opening Day start with the Reds. The shortstop is hitting .471 (8-for-17) with one home run, two RBIs and four runs scored. Cozart, the Reds' second-round pick in the 2007 Draft, appeared in 11 Major League games last July. He hit .324 with two home runs and three RBIs, before he was sent back to Triple-A Louisville.

Worth noting
• Following the recent contractual agreements with first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips, the Reds have now committed $324 million to the right side of their infield. The Reds cumulative payroll from 2007-11 was approximately $304.5 million.

• Wednesday marks the 2,028th all-time meeting between the two teams since 1901. The Reds have faced only the Dodgers, Braves and Giants more since then. The Cardinals have seen the Cubs, Phillies and Pirates more often during that span. Comments