August 15, 2022

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Pham dishes revenge, plate empty elsewhere in 7th straight loss

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SAN DIEGO — Revenge tour? Indeed. The more fans at Petco Park booed Reds left fielder Tommy Pham on Monday night, the more the former Padre produced at the plate.

Pham collected three hits and was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle but it wasn’t enough to lift Cincinnati during a 4-1 loss to the Padres. While Pham was 3-for-4, the rest of the struggling lineup was 3-for-29 as the Reds’ losing streak reached seven games — matching their season high from the 2021 season.

“We just couldn’t deliver that knockout blow,” Pham said. “It’s tough. We’re facing really good pitching right now. You can’t disregard that. You know one thing about good pitching — you have to do your best job not making it easier for them.”

Not only do the Reds (2-9) have the worst record in the Major Leagues, but they’re ranked last with a .541 OPS while missing multiple players to illness or injury. Tyler Naquin and Mike Moustakas were both late scratches from the lineup, with Moustakas bothered by a right arm injury.

For the first time since their last victory, on April 10 at Atlanta, the Reds took a lead, and it was Pham who provided it. Amid boos from the 31,121 fans, he crushed a 1-0 sinker from left-hander Sean Manaea to center field for a solo home run and 1-0 advantage.

According to Statcast, the exit velocity of the long ball was 104.5 mph and traveled an estimated 424 feet.

“It’s the kind of player he is. The bigger the challenge, I think he steps up,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It didn’t surprise me.”

The lead did not last long. Rookie starting pitcher Nick Lodolo opened the bottom of the first surrendering a leadoff single, followed by a two-run homer to left field from Manny Machado. Like Pham, Machado also finished a triple away from the cycle. 

Although Lodolo recovered nicely to pitch five innings with three earned runs allowed and eight strikeouts, Cincinnati trailed the rest of the way, and it hasn’t held a lead at the completion of its last 63 innings.

Pham was greeted with louder boos for his next plate appearance, in the third inning. On a first-pitch breaking ball from Manaea, he zinged a 104.7 mph double to the wall in left-center field. 

More boos came in the fifth inning ahead of Pham’s third hit, a sharp single on the ground into left field. 

“I’ve seen guys play here that used to play for this team and they played worse than me and didn’t get booed. I don’t know what the deal is,” Pham said. “I’ve played in Venezuela, the Dominican. I’ve gotten booed there. It’s 100 times worse than here. I had fans in Venezuela throw things at me on the field because I was performing so badly. This is nothing.”

On his fourth time up, Pham led off the eighth inning and popped out to second base against reliever Pierce Johnson. 

Thus, Eric Davis remains the last Reds player to hit for the cycle – on June 2, 1989, also against the Padres.

“I didn’t realize I was a triple away until the kid was talking mess behind me on the dugout,” Pham said. “I’ve been hitting so poorly, the last thing I was thinking about was a triple there. I was mostly focused on, ‘Let me have another good at-bat’”

When he signed his one-year, $7.5 million contract with the Reds on March 26, Pham called his main goal for the 2022 season to be a “revenge tour” to show he could still produce at the plate.

The Padres did not re-sign him following two down years where he batted .226 with a .705 OPS.

“I don’t know why they booed him,” Machado said. “… He had one [hit] the whole season, and he had three against us? I guess he was just waiting to get here to go out there and rake.”

Pham opened this season 0-for-22 and entered the game 1-for-26 with five walks. On April 13 vs. the Guardians, an outfield collision with Nick Senzel left him with an injured left hand.

“I was at the field today at 12. Just working on certain things, certain movements off the tee, trying to clean up something to get the results I got today,” Pham said. “It’s definitely satisfying.”

During the previous series in Los Angeles, Pham felt like he was seeing the ball better. But he wasn’t happy with his hitting mechanics. 

“I’ve been training myself kind of the wrong way for about a week,” he said. “Now you’ve got to kind of train your neurosystems, your motor patterns, to get you to do something from what you’ve been doing before. I’m balancing that with my hand. It’s like I’ve got to take 200 swings a certain way to clean up a bad habit.”

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