5 stats to know: Reds at Cardinals

With five weeks left in the season, the top three teams in the NL Central are separated by 2½ games. The Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals begin a pivotal three-game series tonight on “Monday Night Baseball” (7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN). Here’s a look at some of the stats our broadcast crew will be talking about during the game.

1. The Reds won the NL Central last season and entered 2013 as the favorites to do so again. However, the organization has not made consecutive postseason appearances since winning back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 1976.

The Reds have taken care of business against teams who are below .500, going 45-22. But they’re just 29-35 against teams with a .500 or better record.

2. Mike Leake is making his first start at Busch Stadium. He has been much better on the road during his career, posting an ERA more than 25 percent lower than his home ERA and allowing far fewer home runs.

In the past two seasons, the Reds have had one of the healthiest rotations in the majors. More than 93 percent of their starts have been by the five pitchers who opened the 2012 season in the rotation -– only the 2012 World Series champion Giants have had more consistency. That has helped the Reds' starters post the second-best ERA in the majors the past two seasons.

3. Joey Votto leads the National League with a .433 on-base percentage, but is that what the Reds need out of the 3-hole in their lineup? Votto has 61 RBIs this season, and the Reds have driven in only 62 runs from the No. 3 spot, fourth-fewest in the NL.

Why is Votto’s RBI total so low? He just doesn’t get pitches to hit in scoring opportunities. He has had 151 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, and walked in more than a quarter of them this season. On the flip side, Votto has reached base 254 times. That provides plenty of opportunities for Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce to drive in runs.

What does all of that add up to? Votto is fifth in the NL in wins above replacement among position players, trailing Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, Paul Goldschmidt and David Wright.

Highest BA with RISP in Past 50 Seasons

4. The Cardinals lead the league by a wide margin in batting average with runners in scoring position (.327). That’s easily the best by any team in the past 50 seasons.

The Cardinals have five of the top eight hitters with RISP this season, led by Allen Craig’s .447 average, which ranks second in the NL.

5. Tyler Lyons is one of 12 rookies to pitch for the Cardinals this season. They’ve gotten 27 wins from rookie pitchers this season (12 from Shelby Miller), tied for their second-most by any team since World War II.