After struggling in back-to-back starts, Georgia native John Gant returned home to take the mound at Truist Park on Thursday. But despite his solid start, the Cardinals’ offense had no answer for Braves starter Charlie Morton -- who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning -- and St. Louis fell 4-0 in the series opener.
“Really effective, good base, threw quality pitches and I thought he threw the ball very well. Just weren't able to get him any runs,” said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt regarding Gant. “Sometimes you really have to say the other team has been effective as well.”
Gant was on a roll to start, and through the first three innings had thrown only 25 pitches. He utilized all six pitches in his arsenal and held the Braves hitless until Ronald Acuña Jr. singled in the bottom of the fourth.
“I just think I did a better job of attacking hitters and getting strike one,” said Gant. “I like to see myself as the type of guy that doesn't really get frustrated: calm and cool no matter how the game goes.”
Gant had struggled over his last two starts, allowing 12 runs over his last 5 2/3 innings pitched. Those 12 runs matched the total from his first 10 starts of the season. In his last start on June 12, Gant allowed five runs, five walks and one home run through 1 2/3 innings. However, despite his recent struggles Gant made quick work of the Atlanta lineup, holding it scoreless through four innings.
“I played a little in the Braves organization, so it's always fun to get traded away and come back and pitch,” said Gant.
The Georgia native made 20 appearances for his hometown Braves in his debut season in 2016. Thursday was his first time starting at Truist Park and just his second career start against his former club. His last appearance against the Braves was on May 26, 2019, when Gant struck out four and walked one in 1 1/3 innings.
The Braves broke the scoreless tie via a Guiellermo Heredia solo home run in the bottom of the fifth. Coming into Thursday's matchup, Gant had struggled to limit extra-base hits. With Heredia’s blast, three of the five home runs Gant has given up this season have come in his past three starts.
“Minus the last few weeks, we've been doing a really good job and I don't even know when it's been good or bad the last few weeks. We’ve lost a lot of games, so usually that means you're not scoring enough runs,” said Paul Goldschmidt, who ended Morton's no-hitter bid with a one-out single in the seventh inning.
Morton finished the night with seven strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings, having allowed only three hits and no walks.
“There's a reason he’s had success for a long time,” Goldschmidt said regarding Morton. “He’s got good velo, good movement on that fastball. The breaking ball breaks as much as the curveball so I think that's what makes him tough as well.”
Coming into Thursday’s matchup the Cardinals were riding the momentum following two straight walk-off victories. But, they lacked production at the plate. Unfortunately for Gant, St. Louis was unable to capitalize and steal the momentum from Atlanta.
Following an RBI triple from Ozzie Albies in the sixth, Gant was replaced by Daniel Ponce de Leon, who allowed one run on two hits in 1 1/3 innings. Gant allowed three runs on four hits and two walks while striking out four over 5 1/3 innings. Wade LeBlanc and Junior Fernández finished out the game.
The Cardinals sit as the 24th offense in the Majors and the 12th in the National League. Although St. Louis has won three of its last four contests, the team is still struggling, slashing .228/.300/.380/.680.
“Of course we can always get better after every game and see what adjustment can be made and do what we do every day,” said Goldschmidt. “ Just got to continue to try to get better, play better and get a win tomorrow.”