EditorsNote: updates Cardinals are 2 1/2 out in wild-card race
Pham about to cash in as Cardinals past Reds
ST. LOUIS — Tommy Pham made some history Thursday.
He’s about 2 1/2 weeks away from making Yadier Molina pay up on a spring training bet.
Pham stole a pair of bases and clubbed a two-run homer to become the first St. Louis Cardinal in 13 years to amass 20 of both in the same year as they dumped the Cincinnati Reds 5-2 at Busch Stadium.
After swiping second and third in the third inning to get to 21 steals on the year, Pham reached 20 homers two innings later with a 381-foot blast to right off Amir Garrett (3-8). The last 20-20 man for St. Louis was Reggie Sanders in 2004.
“I had confidence that I could be a 20-20 player,” Pham said. “This is my goal, but winning helps.”
Making Pham’s accomplishment even more impressive was that he did it after missing the season’s first month. He didn’t make the Cardinals out of spring training and was shipped to Triple-A Memphis, not getting called up until May 5.
On his third day with the team, Pham belted a tie-breaking homer in the 14th inning of a game in Atlanta to seal a series sweep. He’s not had to worry about riding the Memphis shuttle since and has basically been a fixture in the lineup for the last three months.
“What a great surprise he’s been for us this season,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “To watch the ball jump off his bat and then to be able to run the way he does, it’s a very rare mix. What a great accomplishment.”
His big game enabled St. Louis (77-69) to pull within 2 1/2 games of the first-place Chicago Cubs in the National League Central, pending the outcome of their game Thursday night with the New York Mets.
The Cardinals also drew within 2 1/2 games of Colorado for the NL’s second wild-card position, pending the outcome of the Rockies’ game in Arizona. They finished a 5-1 homestand and now head to Chicago for a showdown series that starts Friday.
St. Louis is 10-3 in September and 12-4 in its last 16 games, saving its best baseball for the playoff push.
“Guys kept believing and kept working every day,” Pham said.
The late-season surge has also been fueled by Luke Weaver (6-1), who added Cincinnati (63-84) to his list of victims with another dominant performance. In winning his fifth straight start and sixth straight decision, Weaver permitted just two hits and an unearned run over six innings, walking none and whiffing six.
The Reds trotted out four players with at least 25 homers in this one. Their only hard-hit ball was Scott Schebler’s one-out double down the right-field line in the second. He eventually scored on Phillip Ervin’s two-out grounder that shortstop Paul DeJong whiffed for an error.
“Very good fastball-changeup mix,” Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said of Weaver. “It’s not just us that’s struggled against him, it’s the other five teams before us. He’s obviously found something that works.”
Garrett whiffed six of the first 10 hitters he faced, but ran into trouble when he started throwing ball four. Two-out walks to Pham and DeJong, teamed with Pham’s steals and a DeJong swipe of second on the back end of a double steal, teed up Jose Martinez for a two-run single in the third.
A leadoff walk to Matt Carpenter preceded Pham’s homer. One more walk to DeJong later, Garrett was out after doling out five free passes in four-plus innings. He gave up three hits and four runs, whiffing seven.
Greg Garcia’s pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the eighth capped the Cardinals’ scoring. Schebler lined a two-out RBI triple in the ninth to finish the Reds’ scoring.
With a swarm of media around him after the game, Pham revealed the details of his wager with Molina. He bet the All-Star catcher that he would hit .300 with 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. At .306, Pham is in position to collect a watch at up to $60,000 from his teammate.
“I’m going to max that out,” Pham said, laughing.
NOTES: Cincinnati 2B Scooter Gennett (left hand inflammation) didn’t start for a second straight game. Gennett left Tuesday night’s game in the fifth inning after injuring himself fouling off a pitch in the fourth inning. ... Wednesday night’s 6-0 Reds win marked the sixth time that St. Louis had been blanked this year. It was the third time they had been shut out by Cincinnati in Busch Stadium. ... Cardinals 1B Jose Martinez extended two streaks on Thursday. He reached base in a 15th consecutive game and stretched his hitting streak to 11 games.