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Indians blanked by Gant, Cards as streak ends

MLB.com @MLBastian

ST. LOUIS -- Jason Kipnis dropped his bat and jogged to first base after drawing a four-pitch walk for the Indians to open the seventh inning on Monday night. The following pitch from Cardinals starter John Gant aptly summed up the evening for Cleveland's lineup.

Gant fired a fastball to Yan Gomes, who grounded into a double play to help the St. Louis pitcher once again sidestep trouble. That was the unfortunate theme throughout a 4-0 loss for the Indians in the opener of a three-game Interleague series at Busch Stadium, bringing the Tribe's seven-game winning streak to a halt.

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ST. LOUIS -- Jason Kipnis dropped his bat and jogged to first base after drawing a four-pitch walk for the Indians to open the seventh inning on Monday night. The following pitch from Cardinals starter John Gant aptly summed up the evening for Cleveland's lineup.

Gant fired a fastball to Yan Gomes, who grounded into a double play to help the St. Louis pitcher once again sidestep trouble. That was the unfortunate theme throughout a 4-0 loss for the Indians in the opener of a three-game Interleague series at Busch Stadium, bringing the Tribe's seven-game winning streak to a halt.

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The American League Central leaders simply could not solve Gant, who peppered the strike zone with fastballs and enticed Cleveland's hitters to chase changeups. That made any mistake made by Indians starter Mike Clevinger even more magnified on a tough night for the pitcher.

"He kept us off-balance," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Gant. "He threw the breaking ball that was kind of in and out of the zone and got us to chase. I thought he just really pitched."

The Indians only managed one hit in seven innings off Gant and that featured a bit of luck. In the second inning, Gomes pulled a slider from the right-hander up the third-base line, where the baseball struck the bag and shot up into the air. Third baseman Matt Carpenter snared the ball with a barehanded grab, but had to shot at getting Gomes at first.

"We're lucky the third-base bag got in the way of Gomer's," Francona said, "or we wouldn't have had anything."

Video: CLE@STL: Gomes ropes a single off the third-base bag

Cleveland then went 0-for-15 the rest of the way against Gant, who held the Tribe to an 0-for-7 showing with runners on base. The starter finished with more walks (five) than strikeouts (four), but he generated 10 outs via ground ball.

The changeup, which Gant came into the night featuring 27.1 percent of the time this season, was a big weapon for the righty. He created seven outs with offspeed pitches against the Indians, who entered the day ranked 25th in the Majors in slugging percentage (.323) and weighted on-base average (.257) against right-handed changeups.

"That's going to be a big one for me every night," Gant said, "to get that over and use it to my advantage."

The cold spell for Cleveland's offense created little margin for error for Clevinger, who increasingly battled cramping throughout five rocky innings. Clevinger scattered six hits (five registering at 103 mph or greater in exit velocity, per Statcast™) and issued two walks, but limited St. Louis to two runs. Both came via a two-out double by Marcell Ozuna in the third.

Francona said Clevinger began dealing with cramping in his calves around the fourth inning, and the pitcher noted that it spread throughout his legs. He felt a "perfect storm" of events played a roll, citing the lengthy rain delay, being required to bat, working through a long inning, pitching in muggy conditions and even eating a different dinner than usual on the night before his start.

"It's the big leagues for a reason. You've got to figure it out," Clevinger said. "There's no way to excuse what happened. I should have figured out a better way to handle this."

Even with that going on, Clevinger only surrendered the one run-scoring hit, but that was enough damage given Gant's display.

"We've seen him be so good," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "But, you're throwing him in there against one of the hottest offenses in baseball. Then, you throw in some potential distractions with a little bit of delay from the weather. But, wow. That was some kind of good."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Jose on, rally off: After Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks walked Michael Brantley with two outs in the eighth inning, Jose Ramirez reached with a single to center. That extended Ramirez's career-best on-base streak to 32 games and set the stage for the hot-hitting Edwin Encarnacion. With St. Louis clinging to a 3-0 lead, Encarnacion could not deliver, grounding out to short to end the inning.

Video: CLE@STL: Hicks strands a pair in the 8th inning

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With a runner on first and no outs in the seventh, Greg Garcia shot a pitch from Tribe reliever Zach McAllister up the middle, where shortstop Francisco Lindor showed off his defensive skill for the St. Louis crowd. Lindor ranged to his left, made a diving stop and then flipped the ball with his glove from his stomach to second baseman Kipnis, who quickly fired to first to complete an impressive double play.

Video: CLE@STL: Lindor makes diving stop, turns double play

HE SAID IT
"Man, we just didn't want to do something that we couldn't undo, so we figured that was enough." -- Francona, on pulling Clevinger after five innings

UP NEXT
Right-hander Corey Kluber (11-3, 2.10 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Indians on Tuesday night, when the Cardinals host the Tribe in an 8:15 p.m. ET Interleague game. Kluber's lone outing against St. Louis came on May 13, 2015, when the ace struck out 18 with no walks and one hit allowed in an eight-inning masterpiece. St. Louis will counter with righty Carlos Martinez (3-4, 3.24 ERA).

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

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