John Gant made manager Mike Matheny look like a genius in a situation the Cardinals are all to familiar with: someone filling in for a key injured player.
The rookie right-hander stepped into potential All-Star Michael Wacha’s shoes beautifully in Monday night’s 4-0 win over the Indians.
He pitched seven innings of shutout baseball, striking out four and walking five. The lone hit Gant gave up in his first win of 2018 was a lucky infield single. Yan Gomes hit a lousy ground ball to third base. What looked like a routine ground-out to third jumped high off the base, slowing down Matt Carpenter from making a play on the ball. Gomes reached first on an infield single — the only hit Gant surrendered in his start Monday.
“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.”
Matheny and co. had a tough choice to make in Wacha’s temporary replacement, but a reliable, Major-League-tested Gant proved to be the right man for the job. Cleveland, one of the hottest teams in baseball, was stifled by a fastball-curveball combination Gant commanded throughout.
“With Wacha gone, I’ve got big shoes to fill,” Gant said. “And I’m going to do my best to keep trying to fill them.”
One of the more unique lineups Matheny composed thus far turned out to be just enough against a surging Mike Clevenger, putting up four runs against one of the more talented pitching staffs in the Major Leagues.
Matt Carpenter went 3-4, continuing to thrive in the leadoff spot for the past month or so. Marcell Ozuna continued to stay hot, driving in a pair on the night; while rookie outfielder Harrison Bader — who has started in place of Dexter Fowler lately — got two hits and drove in a run in the victory.
“The kind of hitter we know that he is and that we know he can be,” Matheny said of Ozuna’s hot streak. “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.”
One of the best pitching matchups of 2018 will take place in Tuesday’s game, as Carlos Martinez (3-4, 3.24 ERA) squares off against Corey Kluber (11-3, 2.10 ERA) and the Indians at 7:15 p.m. CST at Busch Stadium.
Jack Parodi covers the St. Louis Cardinals for 590 The Fan and you can find him on Twitter @jack_parodi.