Increased strikeouts pace Reds at home

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Two of the top teams in the National League meet on Monday night (7 ET, ESPN and WatchESPN) as the Atlanta Braves visit the Cincinnati Reds.

Reds Dominant at Home

This is the first game of a six-game homestand for the Reds, who lead the majors with a 12-4 record at home. Cincinnati has won six straight home games against the Braves, with the last loss coming in July 2011.

Reds This Season

Despite Great American Ball Park’s reputation as a hitters’ park, Cincinnati pitchers have posted a 2.32 ERA in 16 games there. That’s the best home ERA for any staff in the majors this season.

The Reds’ staff has been able to minimize the damage at home by keeping the ball out of play. So far this season, 27.1 percent of opposing plate appearances in Cincinnati have ended with a strikeout. Over the previous three seasons, only 19.4 percent of plate appearances were strikeouts.

Most Strikeouts Per Game, MLB history

Strikeouts on the Increase

It isn’t just in Cincinnati -- strikeouts have been the name of the game in the majors this season. In April, there were an average of 15.29 strikeouts per major-league game.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the second-highest average in a full month in MLB history. The record, 15.47 strikeouts per game, was set in September 2012.

In fact, if you look over the entire 138-year history of Major League Baseball, the eight months with the most strikeouts per game are last eight months.

The Braves have struck out 272 times in their first 30 games, the most in the National League. Nearly a quarter of Atlanta’s plate appearances -- 24.1 percent -- end in a strikeout.

Braves Slow After Fast Start

Over the first three weeks of the season, the Braves were the hottest team in baseball. They won 13 of their first 15 games and opened up a four-game lead in the NL East on April 18.

Since then, the Braves have dropped 10 of their last 15 games. Atlanta’s 18-12 record is tied for seventh-best in the majors but is still good for a two-game division lead.

The biggest drop has been in power numbers. After hitting 29 home runs in the first 15 games, Atlanta has hit only 12 in the last 15. The Braves are 17-3 this season when they hit a homer and only 1-9 when they don’t.

Upton HR Pace Slows

Even Justin Upton has slowed down recently. He hit 12 homers in his first 23 games, but hasn’t gone deep in the last seven contests. During that homerless streak, he is 4-for-22 with nine strikeouts.

Opposing pitchers have stopped giving Upton balls to hit. In his first 23 games, 51 percent of the pitches he saw were in the zone. Over the last seven games, only 43 percent have been.

Over the last three seasons, Upton has hit .184 on pitches outside the zone and .318 on pitches in the zone. Ten of Upton’s 12 home runs this season have come on pitches in the zone.