CINCINNATI -- It's hard to rattle Johnny Cueto these days.
The right-hander, who was prone to meltdowns as a rookie, extended his scoreless streak to 15 innings Friday night before giving up his only run, and the Cincinnati Reds won their second in a row with a depleted lineup, 6-4 over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Cueto (3-1) had his way with a team that hit him hard during his rookie season. He limited the Cardinals to a run and five hits in seven innings Friday, leaving with a 6-1 lead. It was the latest measure of how far he's come.
"He's full of confidence," manager Dusty Baker said.
The 23-year-old pitcher appears to be maturing at the start of his second season. Last year, he would get rattled by a mistake, allowing it to multiply into a big inning. In his last five starts, Cueto has allowed only three earned runs, refusing to get on the defensive when something goes wrong.
"I'm trying to be more aggressive," Cueto said in Spanish, with teammate Ramon Hernandez translating. "Last year, I think I was moving my glove and tipping my pitches, so I'm not doing that this year. I'm just trying to be more aggressive and make them put the ball in play."
David Weathers gave up three runs in the eighth, including Tyler Greene's first career homer -- the first runs off the reliever in 11 appearances this season. Francisco Cordero pitched the ninth, remaining perfect in his nine save chances with the help of his catcher.
Joe Thurston drew a leadoff walk. With pinch-hitter Jason LaRue at the plate, Thurston took off and was caught trying to steal by catcher Ryan Hanigan.
"He got a bad jump," manager Tony La Russa said. "I put the (steal) sign on, right or wrong. That's how it turned out."
Jerry Hairston Jr. doubled home a run in the first inning off Joel Pineiro (4-2) and singled home another in the second, helping the Reds pull out to a 5-0 lead.
"In the first two innings, when I got ahead of the hitters, I didn't make the pitch to get them out," said Pineiro, who gave up eight hits and five runs in six innings.
The Reds won their second game in a row without two stalwarts. First baseman Joey Votto, who leads the team in batting at .378, and Gold Glove second baseman Brandon Phillips were sidelined again with the flu. Cincinnati also is missing shortstop Alex Gonzalez, sidelined by pulled muscles in his left side.
The question was whether Cueto could handle the NL Central-leading Cardinals, who at 19-11 are off to their best start since 1982, when they won the World Series. As a rookie last season, Cueto lost both of his starts against St. Louis, getting pounded for 13 runs in less than seven innings.
This time, they barely touched him.
Cueto was coming off the best performance of his career, allowing only four singles in eight shutout innings of a 5-0 victory in Pittsburgh on Sunday. His streak of scoreless innings reached 15 over the last three starts before Thurston grounded into a run-scoring double play in the seventh.
After winning his first four starts, Pineiro has lost his last two. His errant throw to first base on Cueto's sacrifice bunt extended the Reds' three-run rally in the second inning.
The start of the game was delayed 13 minutes by rain that left puddles on the warning track. ... Cardinals RHP Chris Carpenter played catch Friday. Carpenter went on the DL on April 15 with pulled muscles in his left side and resumed throwing this week. "We're encouraged," La Russa said. "It's really outing to outing, how he handles it, how much you give him the next time. But he's improving." ... Cueto's 15 scoreless innings gave him the second-longest streak by a Reds pitcher this season. Edinson Volquez has a 16-inning streak. ... CF Willy Taveras and RF Jay Bruce extended their hitting streaks to nine games.