Randal Grichuk changes approach, hits a homer
Tommy Pham walked twice, scored three runs, had two hits and stole a base Monday, but the St. Louis Cardinals outfielder was hungry for more after the game.
Pham, playing center field, helped the Cardinals defeat Cincinnati 8-2 and salvage a split in the four-game homestand. Pham is batting .281 with nine homers and 23 RBIs.
“My teammates have a saying for me: ‘You gotta eat,’” said Pham, whose productive play has earned the confidence of manager Mike Matheny. “Everyone’s saying that to me. It’s like a motto to stay hungry, along those lines.
“It started with me always saying, ‘I need to eat.’ I would go 0-for-4 and I would say, ‘Man, I starved today.’ Guys just make a joke of it.”
There were many other contributors. The Cardinals (35-40) had 13 hits and got home runs from Jedd Gyorko in the first and Randal Grichuk in the fourth. Rookie Paul DeJong had three hits, while Pham, Grichuk, Gyorko and Stephen Piscotty had two apiece.
Rookie Luke Voit had his first career hit, a double.
On the mound, Michael Wacha (4-3) pitched six innings for just the second time in his last seven starts and posted his second win since April 19.
Pham put the wheels in motion in the first when he walked and surprised Reds center fielder Patrick Kivlehan by advancing to second on Grichuk’s short fly ball.
Pham then stole third and scored on a passed ball as Piscotty walked. Gyorko followed with his 12th home run, a 413-foot drive to left against left-hander Brandon Finnegan (1-1).
Cincinnati made it 3-1 in the fourth, but the Cardinals went ahead 4-1 in the fourth on Pham’s RBI single. Grichuk then stretched the lead to 6-1 with his 408-foot homer to center.
Matheny said Pham’s energy “fires us up,” and he credited Pham’s advance to second for setting the tone for the game.
“We always talk about that – just having your antenna up, looking for an edge, looking for a gap to make something happen,” Matheny said. “Had he even been out, I think that’s a good play. That was a good, aggressive shot on something that could turn the tide of the game, and I believe it did.
“Then he got another great jump where he’s on third base, and they’re thinking about him over there. I would love to see him use the tools he has. ... It was a big day all the way around that Tommy had, as well as ‘Grich.’ A lot of positives today.”
Grichuk was recalled from Class AAA Memphis on Sunday to replace the injured Dexter Fowler. In two starts, Grichuk is 4-for-9 with two homers and four RBIs. After striking out twice Sunday, Grichuk made contact in each of his five at-bats Monday.
“It’s just a shorter swing,” Matheny said. “You could see that right from the beginning. We were seeing a pretty significant number of swings and misses before. He shortens up with two strikes; you’re seeing him choke up on the bat, which is a great philosophy.”
Grichuk said choking up and seeking more contact, especially with two strikes, feels natural.
“You see a lot of players doing it,” said Grichuk, whose philosophy is shared by Cincinnati’s Joey Votto and the Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo. “I had never really done it to the extent of Joey Votto or Rizzo. But I’ve been playing with it and it feels good.”
Grichuk has enjoyed big-league success, but re-establishing his confidence is key.
“Most definitely,” Grichuk said. “I feel good with where I’m at mentally and I feel good with where I’m at mechanically with my swing. ... I’m just letting my body take over. I feel like my swing’s shorter. I think that’s why I struggled so much early on. It was a little long, a little loopy. I’m more direct to the ball right now.”