Matheny's shakeup pays off with Pham at top
After Wong slides to No. 6, rookie doubles for first MLB hit, instrumental in both Cardinals runs
ST. LOUIS -- Not keen on a top-to-bottom shakeup of his batting order amid his club's offensive funk, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny started with a tweak. For the first time in Kolten Wong's last 37 starts, the second baseman was pulled from the leadoff spot and slotted into the sixth hole, a place where Matheny hoped Wong could see more run-producing opportunities.
There would be no subsequent spark to the middle of the lineup, but the residual effect of the move paid off in a grand way. Outfielder Tommy Pham, summoned from Triple-A on Friday as part of the Cardinals' quest for offense, slid into the top spot of the order, where he doubled and scored the tying run in the sixth and then came home as the winning run in the Cardinals' 2-1 final-at-bat win over the Padres on Saturday.
It was a bold move by Matheny, putting a hitter with zero Major League hits at the top of lineup. But for a team that had scored six runs during a four-game skid, the allure of Pham's recent hot streak in Triple-A was enough to give him a chance.
Pham -- ranked by MLB.com as the Cardinals' No. 19 prospect -- opened the sixth with his first hit, a double to center, and came around to score on a ninth-pitch single by Matt Carpenter.
Pham then reached on an error in the eighth, stole second despite a foiled hit-and-run attempt -- his first MLB steal -- and then scored with two productive outs, capped by Jhonny Peralta's sacrifice fly.
"Just to be up here and contributing and helping the team win means a whole lot," Pham said. "It's definitely a special [day] and one I'll always remember."
Pham's pair of runs were the first the Cardinals had scored after five innings since June 26.
"Tommy was really good," Matheny said. "We put him in a tough spot there, seeing how he would respond. ... It's just what we needed today."
With Matt Holliday and Jon Jay on the disabled list, Pham should continue to get starting opportunities, particularly if he can be provide a boost to a scuffling offense. The Cardinals, despite having a Major League-most 52 wins, rank 20th in the Majors with an average of 3.96 runs per game.
An uptick in that production could go a long way, too, when coupled with the team's strong pitching. The Cardinals are 34-5 when they score more than three runs. Trouble is, in six of their last 16 games, the Cardinals haven't plated more than one.
"As much as we've talked about it here [in postgame news conferences], we're talking about it in [the clubhouse], too," Matheny said. "Let's keep working on that situational hitting. Let's figure out a way to get this done. It's not like they haven't been working on it or preparing for it, there are just times when it's easier than others. And it's been rough for us to get it done."