December 3, 2022

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Vets step up as Pham flirts with cycle, Moose homers

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MILWAUKEE — The Reds started their Tuesday with the loss of one of their clubhouse leaders as Joey Votto was placed on the COVID injured list. Votto has torched the Brewers on the road over his career, hitting an impressive .312 with 21 home runs and 65 RBIs. That ranks in the top three all-time for visiting players at American Family Field. 

Despite a slumping Votto, who’s hitting .122 this season, Cincinnati had to find production elsewhere in the series opener against Milwaukee. It came from another pair of other veterans, Tommy Pham and Mike Moustakas, but it wasn’t enough in a 6-3 loss

“We are where we are, and the only way to handle it is to face it head on and continue to do your job,” said manager David Bell, whose team has now lost seven straight.

Hits were again hard to come by for Cincinnati, especially against Brandon Woodruff, who tied his career high with 12 punchouts. Pham and Moustakas, however, had no such problems. The two accounted for five of the Reds’ six hits and all three runs charged to the Brewers’ right-hander, including back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning. 

Pham went 3-for-4 and finished a triple shy of the cycle, while Moustakas finished 2-for-4 with one double, one home run and two RBIs.

“Great nights from both those guys,” Bell said. “Hitting the ball hard, really good.”

Pham homered on a 96.3 mph fastball up in the zone. Then, Moustakas sent a curveball from Woodruff for his first homer of the season — a Statcast-projected 429 feet to right field on the ninth pitch of the at-bat.

As it left Moustakas’ bat, the third baseman showed some emotion rounding the bases.

“I usually play with a lot of emotion,” said Moustakas, downplaying the sentimental feelings on the home run against his former team. “I don’t think it had anything more to do with the fact that I hit a home run. It’s just hard to hit home runs in the big leagues. Any time you can do that, anytime you get a hit, you got to celebrate.”

Moustakas knows a thing or two about homering in this ballpark. Over 1 1/2 seasons with the Brewers (2018-19), he logged 43 home runs and 120 RBIs. This was the first time that he homered at American Family Field since Sept. 17, 2019.

That home run was also his first since Aug. 27, 2021, and his first extra-base hit of the season.

“I felt pretty good,” Moustakas said about his home run. “I hadn’t had an extra-base hit in a minute, so it felt pretty good to get on the board with one of those. [I] put a good swing on a good pitch to hit.”

Moustakas has dealt with injuries to begin the season, including a 10-day stint on the IL with right biceps soreness. But, since returning from that injury on April 28, the 33-year-old is hitting .400 (6-for-15).

“I just feel good to play right now,” he said. “Trying to get good pitches to hit, put good swings on them and continue to come out and work.”

Pham has also been playing well as of late. Over his last 13 games, the Reds’ outfielder is batting .347 with four home runs, five doubles and six RBIs.

“He continues to work hard, continues to play hard and continues to hit the ball hard,” Bell said. “He’s a good player.”

In that span, Pham raised his batting average 107 points — from .133 to .240.

“He shows up to the field every day ready to go,” Moustakas said. “[He’s a] true competitor, a guy you want on your team, and it’s awesome watching him hit right now. He doesn’t miss, man. He is always out there working, always getting better and it’s fun to watch the hard work off the field translate to on the field.”

The two veterans continue to work hard every day in an attempt to put the Reds into a better position moving forward. But, on a roster filled with young talent, the message has remained clear inside the clubhouse.

“[It’s a] long season, there’s 162 games,” Moustakas said. “We’re going to be playing in all of them and just got to keep working. Keep playing hard and we’re gonna see where we are at the end of [the season].”

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