Gant's gem lifts Cards to 10,000th NL win

Righty spins 7 innings of 1-hit ball in place of injured Wacha

June 26th, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- After spending days defending their decision to give first dibs at serving as a stopgap in 's absence, the Cardinals watched their chosen right-hander provide the most compelling argument of all.
He may not have been the glitzy choice to step into the rotation -- that would have been rising prospect Dakota Hudson -- but Gant proved to be the right one. A wobbly rotation found some stability on Monday when, with seven scoreless innings, Gant silenced baseball's hottest team in the Cardinals' 4-0 win over the Indians.
The victory, which followed a one-hour, 21-minute rain delay, snapped Cleveland's seven-game winning streak and secured the Cardinals' 10,000th victory as a member of the National League. It also helped the Cardinals continue to stay afloat during a stretch in which they are playing four straight series against division-leading clubs.
"With Wacha gone, I've got big shoes to fill," Gant said following the deepest start of his career. "And I'm going to do my best to keep trying to fill them."
Pitching the way he did on Monday will earn Gant the opportunity to keep doing so. It was no minor task taming the Indians, who arrived in St. Louis having outscored their opponents, 54-9, over the past week. With a mix of pitches and heavy reliance on his changeup late, Gant held Cleveland to one hit -- an infield single by that clipped third base with two out in the second.

Gant otherwise worked around five walks while allowing just one runner to reach second base. He became the third Cardinals pitcher -- joining and Wacha -- to allow one hit in a seven-inning start this season.
"He kept us off-balance," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I thought he just really pitched. He didn't overwhelm you with stuff, but we're lucky the third-base bag got in the way of Gomer's [ground ball] or we wouldn't have had anything."
The Cardinals had been winless in Gant's previous three spot starts this year, but they'll now let him continue as Wacha's replacement until he gives them a reason to consider other options. And they'll need help for a while. Hours before Gant took the mound, general manager Michael Girsch confirmed that the team will be without Wacha at least through the All-Star break.

"You didn't know what you were really going to see," manager Mike Matheny said. "We've seen him be so good, but you're throwing him in there against one of the hottest offenses in baseball. But, wow. That was some kind of good."
Support for Gant came from an unfamiliar source -- a pair of two-out doubles. A club that ranked last in the Majors with 99 doubles entering hit a season-high four of them on the night. 's drove in two runs against starter Mike Clevinger in the third. padded the lead with a sixth-inning RBI double, his first extra-base hit with a runner in scoring position this season.

Ozuna jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Clevinger in the third and drove it into the left-center-field gap to ensure the Cardinals struck first. The two-run double pushed the outfielder's RBI total this month to 21, a team high. Since June 1, Ozuna has hit safely in 19 of 23 games, produced 10 multihit games and driven in a run in 14 games.
"The kind of hitter we know that he is and that we know he can be," Matheny said of Ozuna's recent resurgence. "Just a threat right there in the middle of the lineup … It's a part of the order that can cause some damage if you give them enough opportunities."

Though the franchise is credited with 10,780 wins since its inception in 1882, Monday's victory was the 10,000th since St. Louis joined the National League in 1892. They are the sixth NL club to reach that milestone, joining the Braves, Cubs, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers.

The Cardinals extended the eighth inning with a successful challenge that notched his seventh stolen base of the season. Initially called out after trying to swipe second with two outs, Bader was awarded the steal following a 77-second review. He was left stranded there when Wong grounded out to end the inning.

Winless in four starts since returning from the disabled list, will seek to get back on track when he starts Tuesday against the Indians. Martinez has posted an 8.10 ERA and walked 20 in 16 2/3 innings this month. He'll be opposed by , who struck out 18 batters when he faced the Cardinals in 2015. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. CT.