His instinct proved correct Sunday when St. Louis capped a rough road trip with an 8-2 rout that allowed it to salvage a split of a four-game series with the National League Central leaders and pushed it within 4 1/2 games of the Brewers.
St. Louis (40-36) scored just seven runs in its first three games in Milwaukee, whiffing 34 times, with 15 occurring in a 2-1 loss Friday night. It fanned another 11 times on Sunday but mixed in 10 hits, including a three-run homer by Jose Martinez to cap a five-run fourth inning that turned momentum for good.
While the Cardinals enter the series with hope that they are turning things around, Cleveland (43-33) did so during the last week. Its 12-2 rout Sunday of Detroit was its seventh straight win, moving it eight games ahead of the Tigers and Minnesota Twins in the American League Central.
The Indians also appear to have the mound advantage for the series opener with Mike Clevinger (6-2, 3.00 ERA) against spot starter John Gant (1-2, 4.39).
Clevinger's last start was one of his best this year. He notched 10 strikeouts Tuesday night in 7 2/3 innings of a 6-3 win over the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Clevinger has lasted at least six innings in five straight starts, solidifying his place in a deep rotation.
"His fastball had really good life," Chicago manager Rick Renteria told mlb.com. "He was keeping the ball down below the zone. You saw him get a lot of checked swings on some of his breaking pitches ... he's got a pretty good repertoire and was able to command consistently in the zone consistently throughout the whole ballgame."
Gant is starting in place of Michael Wacha, who took his 8-2 record to the disabled list last week after suffering an oblique strain Wednesday in Philadelphia. The former Atlanta Braves prospect is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in three starts this year, leading some to wonder why Dakota Hudson (10-2 at Triple-A Memphis) or Daniel Poncedeleon was not picked to replace Wacha.
In his last start, Gant lasted 5 1/3 innings on May 25 in Pittsburgh, losing 8-1 despite fanning seven and walking none. He was charged with four hits and three runs.
Gant has made one career start against Cleveland, lasting two innings in a 2016 game for the Braves and permitting one run and three hits with two strikeouts.
Carlos Martinez (3-4, 3.24) starts Tuesday night for St. Louis opposite Corey Kluber (11-3, 2.10). Jack Flaherty (3-2, 2.50) faces the Indians' Shane Bieber (2-0, 2.45) in a battle of rookie right-handers on Wednesday night.