BOSTON -- There was one moment of excitement for the Red Sox before a crowd of 35,406 at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, and it came from the newly acquired bat of Tommy Pham.
The veteran right-handed hitter mauled a three-run shot into the center-field bleachers with one out in the bottom of the seventh to turn a four-run deficit into a one-run deficit. Pham took in the moment as he rounded the bases for a homer on the third straight day.
Alas, the momentum was short-lived for the slumping Red Sox in an 8-4 loss to the Braves.
“It was a big moment,” said Pham. “Put us within one at the time. Just something that kind of gave us a jolt.”
That was chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom’s intention when he acquired Pham for a player to be named or cash on Aug. 1: To give an outfield that has lacked production all season a jolt.
Though it isn’t adding up in the standings for a team that has lost four in a row and six of seven, the hope is that Pham can stay hot and the Red Sox -- who are five games back in the quest for the third and final American League Wild Card spot -- can get hot.
“The thing with Tommy, he stays in the zone. He doesn't expand,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “He’s doing a good job for us. It's a different at-bat. For him to stay up the middle and drive that ball to center is a good sign.”
Pham’s homer in Tuesday’s 9-7 defeat in 11 innings was also roped to center. At some point soon, perhaps Pham will clear the Monster. There are still four games left in this homestand.
If first impressions are any indication, Pham is enjoying his new surroundings.
“It’s a fun place,” Pham said. “You see the fans show up by the numbers. They’re in the game every inning.”
The Red Sox have been using Pham in the leadoff spot of late, putting him in a good spot to be a spark. However, Pham would like to be more well-rounded than just the guy who is going deep.
“I’m barreling up the the ball a little bit more consistently, but I’m striking out too much,” said Pham. “I’m not getting on base as much as I need to, especially with guys like [Rafael] Devers and [Xander] Bogaerts behind me.”
If not for one untimely misfire to Marcell Ozuna in the top of the fourth that was jacked for a three-run homer over the Monster, Wednesday could have been a big night for Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta.
Over six innings, the only runs Pivetta allowed scored on that one swing. He scattered five hits while walking two and striking out five.
What stung him the most was walking Eddie Rosario with two outs after getting ahead of him 0-2. The 2-2 pitch looked like a strike on the low, outside corner. However, home-plate umpire Adam Beck called it a ball, and Pivetta walked Rosario on the next pitch. Ozuna’s homer followed.
“People expect perfection out of me in those situations. I expect perfection out of other people in those situations,” said Pivetta. “It didn’t go my way. I ended up leaving a middle-middle heater at the end of the day to Ozuna, and he hit it over the fence. I wasn’t able to execute my pitch later to the next hitter.”
What is going on with J.D. Martinez? The slugger has been in a serious funk for close to a month.
From July 13 through Wednesday’s defeat, in which Martinez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and a double-play grounder, he is 9-for-71 and has a line of .127/.179/.197 with no homers, six RBIs, four walks and 25 strikeouts.
“We can talk all we want about mechanics and how he works as hard as he does, but the swing decisions have to be better. He needs to make sure he gets them in the zone,” said Cora. "We talked a little bit about it yesterday, ‘You’re still J.D. Martinez.’ You see Charlie Morton, what he did. He expanded. He expanded with him.
“So he needs to get [pitchers] back in the zone and put good swings there, and if not, take your walks. Always, when they're struggling like that, walks are going to get you back to who you are.”