Play at plate fires up Pham in hard-fought finale

June 2nd, 2024

MILWAUKEE -- was focused and direct when talking to the media following the White Sox 6-3 loss to the Brewers on Sunday afternoon at American Family Field.

He also was angry. Maybe not as angry as he was after being tagged out at home plate by Brewers catcher William Contreras to end the eighth inning after tagging up from third on Corey Julks’ short fly to left fielder Christian Yelich. Contreras apparently said something to him following the play. Pham had to be held back by hitting coach Marcus Thames, among others.

And it wasn’t as much an interview as a statement by Pham and an emphatic mic drop as he walked away.

“One-run ballgame. Close play at the plate. Actually, it wasn’t even [expletive] close,” Pham said after Chicago's 11th consecutive loss, their longest since July 1956. “It was a shallow fly ball to left field. You would expect the left fielder to throw the baserunner out on that play.

“The situation of the game, you know, third base coach [Eddie Rodriguez] sends you, you gotta go. I’m nailed out at home ... by a mile. I’m going to the dugout, and I hear the tough guy with all the hoo-rah [expletive].

“So, I’ll never start anything, but I’ll be prepared to finish it,” Pham added. “There’s a reason why I do all kinds of fighting in the offseason because I’m prepared to [expletive] somebody up. So, you can take it at what it is."

Contreras wasn't really paying attention to what Pham said. He was excited about the play, keeping the Brewers ahead by one run and returning to the dugout. The Brewers have had bench-clearing incidents with the Orioles, Rays and Red Sox this season, but stayed under control vs. Chicago.

“Tommy is just trying to say, 'I can play for you guys, man. Bring me over there. See, I'm just like you, I can do that,'" Brewers manager Pat Murphy joked. "I like Tommy Pham. He's been criticized, I know, for a number of things, but he plays with intensity and competes hard. I don't know what happened."

“That's the play of the game," Contreras said. "That helped us stay positive and stay on attack. The only thing I'm worried about is ourselves and our players and winning the game."

In that fateful eighth inning, more than the play at the plate transpired for the White Sox. Kevin Herget, who had struck out five of the first six hitters faced, couldn’t find the plate and walked Dominic Fletcher and Pham on eight pitches to open the frame.

Fletcher became the team’s temporary hero in the bottom of the seventh by leaping over the center-field wall and taking away a three-run home run from Contreras. However, he banged up his left shoulder on the play, so Zach Remillard came in to pinch-run for him.

Remillard was thrown out at third base trying to advance on an Enoli Paredes pitch that ticked off the glove of ... you guessed it -- Contreras. Nicky Lopez followed with a drive to right-center, hopping over the fence for an automatic double, putting runners on second and third with one out.

After all that action, there were still no runs for the White Sox.

“It was first and second, we were bunting Nicky," White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “We ended up second and third with one out. Nicky hit that double, which bounced over. I was hoping it would have been a triple if it stayed in the park."

John Brebbia raced in from the bullpen when the words were exchanged between Pham and Contreras. He re-entered in the bottom of the frame and allowed a two-run, two-out single to Gary Sánchez, extending Milwaukee's lead.

After a quiet ninth, the White Sox fell to 30 games under .500 at 15-45, extending the worst start in franchise history. They have lost 11 straight, 15 of 16, and the first five hitters in their Opening Day lineup are either on the injured list or dealing with some sort of malady, although Luis Robert Jr. is expected back Tuesday against the Cubs.

This team is battered and knocked down but remains feisty, especially with a competitor like Pham leading the way.

“They got a little emotional, and Tommy took it personally,” said Paul DeJong, who homered in the loss. “We’re just out here trying to play and play clean, stay healthy and just one of those things. It’s a frustration thing with the team and it’s unfortunate it went that way.”