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Monday, April 15, 2013
Phillies feel right at home in Cincinnati

By Will Cohen, ESPN Stats & Info

Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsCliff Lee looks to open the season at 3-0 as the Phillies visit the Reds.
The Cincinnati Reds return home after dropping their last five games on the road. They’ll face the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday Night Baseball (7 ET, ESPN).

The Reds started the season 5-2, including winning four of six games during their season-opening homestand. Their current five-game losing streak is tied for their longest since they lost six straight in May 2011.

Cincinnati won the NL Central last season and was the preseason favorite to do so again this year. The franchise is looking to make consecutive postseason appearances for the first time since winning back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 1976.

Phillies Starter Cliff Lee
They’ll face Cliff Lee, who is off to a 2-0 start with a 1.08 ERA this season. That’s quite the contrast to last year, when Lee didn’t pick up his second win until his 18th game.

While Lee’s record dropped to 6-9 last season, his peripheral numbers were similar to the rest of his career. He struck out 24 percent of the batters faced, the second-highest rate of his career, while walking only 3 percent of opposing hitters, the second-lowest rate of his career.

His biggest problem last season was the gopher ball. He gave up 26 home runs in 2012, his most since allowing 29 in 2006.

Hitters have taken advantage of Lee’s reputation for pounding the strike zone. Of the 27 home runs he’s allowed since the start of last year, 13 have been in the first two pitches of the at-bat.

Home Away from Home
Since Great American Ball Park opened in 2003, the Phillies are 22-13 in Cincinnati. That’s tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best winning percentage among visitors to play at least seven games there.

Philadelphia has finished with a winning record away from home for nine straight seasons. The Phillies have won nearly 55 percent of their road games in that span, compared to the league average of 46 percent.

Rolling Out the Red Carpet
The Reds’ primary offseason addition, centerfielder Shin-Soo Choo, has quickly settled in at the top of the Cincinnati order. He has reached base in all 12 games this season, and his .483 on-base percentage is third in the National League.

Last season, Cincinnati leadoff hitters posted a .254 on-base percentage. That was the lowest single-season mark in the Wild Card Era, and the lowest since the Toronto Blue Jays in 1981.

Since the start of last year, Choo has posted a .400 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot, five points higher than Mike Trout for best in the majors.