Inability to keep foes in park smothering Reds

Pitching staff collectively surrendering home runs at historic rate

Inability to keep foes in park smothering Reds

NEW YORK -- Even with its fences moved in over the years, Citi Field is not known as a haven for home runs. It's still considered a rather pitcher-friendly place. But at this point, no ballpark in the Majors can seem big enough to contain the homers being hit off Reds pitching this season.

Three more home runs were hit against the Reds on Monday, providing all five Mets runs in a 5-3 loss. The dagger was a two-run shot to right field by Neil Walker in the bottom of the seventh against reliever JC Ramirez that came on the heels of Cincinnati's game-tying rally in the top of the seventh.

"We got bit by the home run bug," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

It's been a big swarm of bites for the season. Cincinnati pitchers lead the Majors with 37 homers allowed in 20 games. Twenty-seven of those homers have come over the last 11 games, since April 15.

That puts the Reds on pace to allow 299 home runs for the season, which would smash the all-time record of 241 set by the 1996 Tigers and the club record of 236 that was claimed by the 2004 Reds. Four starters that season -- Aaron Harang, Cory Lidle, Jose Acevedo and Paul Wilson -- allowed at least 24 homers each.

"I think we have to get better at getting to the bottom of the zone and executing pitches," Price said. "The home runs are up, but the walks are up, too. I think one leads to the other. When you're throwing a lot of pitches, those hitters are seeing a lot of pitches, you're spraying the ball in and out of the zone. I think that's what really creates it."

Sure enough, the Reds' pitching staff also leads the Majors with 92 walks. The team ERA of 5.59 is 28th out of 30 big league clubs. It's not helping that one starter has completed seven innings so far. The burden on the bullpen to provide innings has been large.

Conforto's solo home run

The Mets' seventh began when Ramirez walked leadoff hitter Michael Conforto, who provided the first homer of the game with a first-inning solo shot to right-center field against starter Raisel Iglesias. With one out, Ramirez hung an 86-mph 0-2 slider over the plate for Walker. It was the Major League-leading 18th allowed by the Reds' bullpen.

Duda's two-run homer

Iglesias gave up Lucas Duda's third-inning homer to right field on an 83-mph 1-0 changeup. There have been two games this season in which the Reds did not give up a home run.

"When we get to where we're commanding the bottom of the zone -- we're getting into much better counts and keeping the counts in our favor -- we will have the ... success that we had earlier in the year," Price said. "We can't walk [hitters]; it's prolific the rate with which we're walking guys right now. Today was an aside, but we certainly need to get better with commanding the zone. That's all this is, the result of really poor pitch location."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.