ST. LOUIS -- An inning first complicated by a routine fly ball that wasn't caught closed with a defensive gem that, based on Statcast™ measurements, was as unlikely as the Cardinals have had all season.The club's seven-game losing streak reached its end when left fielder Tommy Pham snared a slicing
ST. LOUIS -- An inning first complicated by a routine fly ball that wasn't caught closed with a defensive gem that, based on Statcast™ measurements, was as unlikely as the Cardinals have had all season.
The club's seven-game losing streak reached its end when left fielder Tommy Pham snared a slicing live drive toward the left-field line on Friday. The defensive highlight sealed a 3-2 victory over the Phillies, who came up empty with two chances to push the potential tying run home from third in the ninth.
"Once Tommy started running," closer Seunghwan Oh said, "I knew he had it."
He may have been more confident than most.
Up until that play, it had not been a stellar night for the Cardinals' outfield defense. Right fielder Stephen Piscotty had been unable to make a play on a ball with an 81 percent catch probability off the bat of Aaron Altherr back in the third. It turned into an RBI triple.
Altherr then hit a bloop double in front of William Fowler to open the ninth. That ball had a catch probability of 93 percent, categorizing it as a one-star play. Entering the night, Fowler had been a perfect 47-for-47 on one-star plays since the start of the 2016 season. That accounts for all balls with a 91-95 percent catch probability.
After freezing Altherr at third with a strikeout of Andrew Knapp for the second out of the inning, Oh turned his attention to eight-hole hitter Freddy Galvis. Three pitches into that at-bat, both Pham and Mike Shildt, who had been reassigned as the team's third-base and outfield coach on Friday, spotted the same thing.
Pham took two steps to his right.
"We were on the same page," Pham said. "As soon as [Galvis] fouled the fastball off and I saw his barrel lagging a little bit, I moved over."
Three pitches later, Galvis drove a changeup toward the line in left. Pham, with 50 feet to cover in 3.4 seconds, did so with an efficient route.
"As it came off the bat, I thought it was going to be tailing away from him too much," manager Mike Matheny said. "But what a great jump, a great job of positioning. Tommy had a lot of closing speed to make that happen right there at the end."
"I feel like I made good contact, but somebody said he was right on the line," Galvis added. "I hit it good, but when I saw him running I knew he had a pretty good jump to catch the ball."
The catch, with a 29 percent catch probability, was the first four-star catch for Pham this season. Last year, he was 1-for-15 on five-star plays and 2-for-8 on four-star ones. Cardinals outfielders had been 5-for-59 on four- and five-star plays this season.
"I haven't made too many good catches up here yet," Pham said. "I'm working on it. If there is anybody trying to improve his defense, it's definitely me because I know the value of improving my defense to get my overall value up as a player."
The play assured the Cardinals that this night would end differently than so many had recently. Five times during their seven-game losing streak, they squandered leads in the final three innings of the game. The club entered the night 6-13 in one-run games.
How much did they need this win?
"Gosh," Pham sighed. "You see our locker room tonight? That can just tell you. [Fowler] is finally smiling."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, and Facebook.