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Harper pacing NL in OPS thanks to hot start

4/30/2013
Chuck Myers/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves host the Washington Nationals at 7:00 ET tonight on ESPN. The Braves won the first three meetings between the teams this season, outscoring the Nationals 18-5 in the process. Among those three wins was a victory over Monday’s starter Stephen Strasburg, the second of what’s turned into a four-game losing streak for Strasburg overall.

After their great start to the season, the Braves have also hit a rough patch of late. Atlanta started an MLB-best 12-1, but has gone 3-8 since and is currently riding a four-game losing streak after being swept against the Detroit Tigers over the weekend.

So what can we expect on Monday night? Let’s run through some notes to know:

BRYCE IS NICE

Bryce Harper currently leads the big leagues in OPS (1.200) with two games to play in April. At 20 years old, he could become the youngest player to lead MLB in OPS through April since 1965 when Ed Kranepool of the Mets also did so at age 20 (1.161).

Harper had just one hit in 10 at-bats against the Braves in their series earlier this month, but his five career home runs against Atlanta are tied for his second-most against a single team. He has six career homers against the Marlins.

COULD UPTON ONE-UP HIM?

Across the diamond, Braves outfielder Justin Upton is third in the big leagues in OPS at 1.171 and he leads all of baseball with 12 home runs. He’s the sixth player in major-league history to hit at least 12 homers during the month of April and he’s just two shy of the April record shared by Alex Rodriguez (2007) and Albert Pujols (2006).

Most HR in April - MLB History

Since the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, Upton’s April is one of five months in which a Brave has hit at least 12 HR and marks the most any Brave has had during the month of April.

STRASBURG’S STRUGGLES



Although Stephen Strasburg has lost four consecutive starts since winning on opening day, the streak is a little misleading. The Nationals have scored just 1.8 runs per game in his starts this season and have yet to score more than 3 runs in any single start. During the losing streak itself, Strasburg has a 4.07 ERA but just a 2.37 ERA in the last three games over that span.

One concern for the Nationals, however, is Strasburg’s strikeout rate. Strasburg struck out an MLB-high 30 percent of hitters he faced last season, but that rate has dropped to 21 percent in 2013. The nine percentage-point drop is the fourth-largest in the big leagues this season, trailing only Joe Blanton (-11 percent), Yovani Gallardo (-11 percent), and Edinson Volquez (-10 percent).