Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 5/14/12
Joey Votto is looking to build on his best - and most dramatic - performance of the season for the Cincinnati Reds. The NL East-leading Atlanta Braves are trying to continue their own impressive production at the plate. On the heels of his first three-homer game in more than four years, Votto and the Reds visit the Braves for the first of two meetings Monday night. Cincinnati (17-16) signed Votto to a 10-year, 225 million extension on opening day, and although he has a major league-best 15 doubles, the 2010 NL MVP has struggled to drive the ball out of the park. The Reds are hoping that's no longer the case. Votto hit a walkoff grand slam in a 9-6 win over Washington on Sunday, capping his second career three-homer game and giving him his first six-RBI contest. The two-time All-Star had two homers and 18 RBIs over his first 32 games. "You like to see Joey hitting like that," manager Dusty Baker said. "I keep telling the guys you've got to believe." Votto's production is vital to the Reds' success. He has a .377 average with four homers and 20 RBIs in their victories compared to batting .250 with one home run and four RBIs in the defeats. In an effort to find consistency, he's working on smoothing out his swing. "It's certainly a work in progress, but I think I hit more barrels (Sunday) than I have all season," said Votto, whose only other grand slam came in a loss at Turner Field on May 20, 2010. He owns a .389 average with five RBIs in the last five games in Atlanta, but Cincinnati has lost four of them. The Braves (22-13) are hoping their road success carries into this four-game homestand. They're won nine of the last 11 as the visitor after capping a 7-2 trip and a sweep of World Series champion St. Louis with Sunday's 7-4 victory. "We're rolling right now," winning pitcher Tommy Hanson said. "We're playing good baseball and doing good things on the road, so hopefully we can go back home and keep it up." Atlanta's offense led the way on the trip, compiling a .286 average with 11 homers while averaging 6.2 runs. Michael Bourn had eight hits in St. Louis, increasing his average to .336 to go with a team-high 11 stolen bases and 24 runs. However, he's 0 for 6 with two walks against Homer Bailey, Cincinnati's scheduled starter. Randall Delgado (2-3, 4.54 ERA) wouldn't mind some offensive help as he faces the Reds for the first time. The Braves have scored two total runs in the right-hander's last three starts and he's gone 0-2 with a 3.50 ERA. Delgado gave up two runs over a season-best eight innings in a 4-0 loss to Philadelphia on May 3, then yielded one run and three hits in 5 2-3 before leaving without a decision in Tuesday's 3-1 victory at Chicago. "I think he's pitching terrific," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Every game he's pitched I think he's learned something." Bailey (1-3, 4.93), meanwhile, is coming off his worst outing. The right-hander was pulled with two outs in the fourth and was charged with six runs and six hits while walking three and hitting a batter in Tuesday's 8-3 loss at Milwaukee. Bailey won his only start against Atlanta, allowing two runs in six innings July 23.
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