Gant homers, earns Cards' 7th straight victory

August 15th, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- Matt Carpenter may be leading the Cardinals' sprint up the standings, but it's been a supporting cast of unlikely contributors filling in the gaps around him as the club continues to surge.
Boosted by a home run from the previously hitless on Tuesday, the Cardinals ran their season-best winning streak to seven games with a 6-4 victory over the Nationals at Busch Stadium.
Arms That Hammer Sweepstakes
One month after initiating a full club makeover by firing their manager, the Cardinals find themselves only one game back of the Phillies, who currently have a hold on the second National League Wild Card spot. In the NL Central, the Cardinals trail the Cubs by four games.
That's as close as they've been to Chicago since June.

"Things are starting to click for us," said second baseman after his three-hit, three-RBI night. "We're playing confident. We're out there playing aggressive. This is the kind of baseball that I think Cardinals fans have been waiting for."

Since hovering the line between buyer and seller at last month's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Cardinals have won more games (11) than anyone in the NL, and they are 10 games over .500 for the first time since 2016. Over the last eight days, they've leaped three teams in the Wild Card race while shaving 3 1/2 games off their deficit.
And despite what the highlight reels may suggest, Carpenter, who has 17 homers during an on-base streak of 32 games, hasn't carried the load on his own. Two days ago, it was newcomer Patrick Wisdom who delivered the game-tying hit. On Monday, rookie Dakota Hudson netted the biggest outs of the game. , and -- none of whom began the year in the Cardinals' rotation -- have tallied wins over the past week. On Tuesday, it was Gant.
"We have a 25-man roster and we have confidence in all of them," said interim manager Mike Shildt, whose 18 wins are the most in franchise history by a manager in his first 27 games. "Some of it is not in bolded print. But everybody is doing their part."

Gant's pick-me-up moment may have been the most improbable of them all.
Hitless in 30 career at-bats and facing a starter who had never allowed a homer to an opposing pitcher (325 at-bats), Gant drilled a pitch from lefty into the left-field seats to turn a one-run lead into a 3-0 advantage in the second inning.
It was the first time in 36 career plate appearances that Gant had ever reached base. And it showed, too. While everyone else knew the ball was headed for the seats, Gant sprinted out of the box thinking double. He stumbled as he rounded first base and realized he could slow to a trot.
"We were all kind of losing it," Wong said. "These guys are constantly talking about how they want to hit home runs, and you watch their batting practice and it's just them trying to hit home runs the entire time."
In fact, Gant had flashed his power one day earlier by depositing a BP ball into the seats.
"That's just about all we do during batting practice is try to hit home runs," he said. "I do alright for myself."
With his first homer since his senior year of high school, Gant joined and as Cardinals pitchers to go deep this year. Mikolas, like Gant, had never tallied a Major League hit before homering in April.
"We were jumping up and down in the dugout hooting and hollering," Mikolas said. "He'll probably take that bat out of the rotation. I took mine out. It's in the apartment to get ready for a little shrine in my office with the ball and bat. You can look back however many years from now and say 'I went deep once. It was nice.'"
Gant delivered on the mound, as well, limiting the Nationals to one run over 5 1/3 innings. Wong helped pad the lead with a two-run double and solo homer, a cushion the Cardinals needed after the Nationals knocked the 'pen for three eighth-inning runs.
After opening the eighth with a five run lead, the Cardinals watched it shrink to two, thanks in large part to another home run. Hudson, who stranded the potential go-ahead run on third in the series opener, stopped the unraveling again by freezing Matt Adams on an 0-2 curveball. The strikeout ended the inning with two runners left stranded on base.

An inning later, stepped in for an unavailable and garnered his fourth save of the season by inducing a flyout with Harper looming on deck as the potential go-ahead run.

Before this season, the last time three different Cardinals pitchers homered in the same year was in 1973 when Rick Wise, Bob Gibson and Scipio Spinks did so. With his homer, Gant joins (2013) as the only players since 1920 to snap an 0-for-30 start to their careers by homering.
"Everybody is eating the salsa, right? It's delicious." -- Shildt
"I have not had a single bite of that salsa. I'm saving it for our hitters." -- Gant
The Cardinals are expected to add back into the bullpen on Wednesday as they continue their four-game series against the Nationals with a 7:15 p.m. CT game at Busch Stadium. Lefty Austin Gomber (2-0, 3.45 ERA) will face (5-2, 3.54) as the Cardinals try to secure their sixth consecutive winning series.