Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gant's Lumber Shakes off Slumber as Cardinals Win

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gant's Lumber Shakes off Slumber as Cardinals Win

Article excerpt

* The outfielder's first homer of the season helps defeat Houston.

Ron Gant missed the first Shane Reynolds pitch he saw in the eighth inning Friday night. Missed it horribly. Looked awful in the process.

He's looked awful a lot this early season, with a .138 batting average in the Cardinals' first seven games. But his bat woke up on Reynolds' next pitch. "Woke up? That's kind of an understatement, isn't it?" Cards manager Tony La Russa wondered. Gant clubbed Reynolds' second pitch into the left-field seats at Busch Stadium. The two-run homer gave the Cardinals a 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros and ended their three-game losing streak against their rivals in the National League Central Division. "He had a huge, clutch, extra-base hit against one of the better pitchers in the league," La Russa said. "That's more than waking up." The victory was the second for the Cardinals after their 0-6 start to the season. The Astros dropped to 6-4 in front of a paid crowd of 23,744, though about 6,000 of those failed to show up on a day that started out drizzly but ended warm and fuzzy for the Cardinals. Especially Gant. "Hopefully, we'll see a lot more of that," Gant said. "I feel things starting to turn around for me." Reliever Rich Batchelor (1-1) got credit for the pitching victory. Dennis Eckersley pitched the ninth inning, struck out the side against three pinch-hitters and picked up the save in his first opportunity of the season. Gant was the late-game hero. But Royce Clayton took charge early. And often. Clayton whacked Reynolds' first pitch of the game over the left-field fence for a home run. Clayton led off again two innings later, and again he mistreated Reynolds' first pitch - a double into the left center-field gap. He then moved to third on Mark Sweeney's groundout. With Houston's infield playing in, Dmitri Young gave the Cards a 2-0 lead with an RBI single. "Against any good pitcher, I don't want to fall too far behind in the count," Clayton said. "I'm not going to give a great pitcher like Shane Reynolds a first-pitch strike." Between hits, shortstop Clayton made a couple of dandy defensive plays that kept the second inning from turning disastrous. …

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