Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals

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ST. LOUIS — John Gant homered for his first major league hit and pitched one-run ball into the sixth inning, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 6-4 on Tuesday night for their season-high seventh consecutive victory.

Kolten Wong had three hits and three RBI as St. Louis (65-55) pulled within four games of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs and moved within one game of the Philadelphia Phillies for the second NL wild card. The Cardinals also improved to 18-9 since Mike Shildt was named interim manager on July 13, the most wins for a manager through his first 27 games in franchise history.

The Nationals (60-60) have dropped six of eight to fall eight games behind Atlanta in the NL East.

Gant (5-4) permitted four hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings. He has given up just two earned runs over 11 1/3 innings in his last two starts, both wins.

The 26-year-old Gant was 0 for 20 for his career when he drove a 1-1 pitch from Gio Gonzalez (7-9) over the wall in left in the second. The two-run shot gave Washington a 3-0 lead.

Wong’s solo homer made it 6-1 in the sixth, but Washington responded with three in the eighth. Bryce Harper hit a two-run shot, and Daniel Murphy singled in Anthony Rendon.

Matt Adams then struck out looking against Dakota Hudson, ending the inning, and Jordan Hicks worked the ninth for his fourth save in eight chances.

Paul DeJong also doubled and scored for St. Louis one night after he connected for a game-ending homer in a 7-6 victory. Matt Carpenter walked in the sixth to extend his on-base streak to 32 games.

Gonzalez was charged with five runs and five hits in four innings. The veteran left-hander is just 1-4 in his last six starts.

St. Louis star Yadier Molina played in his 22nd consecutive game, the most by a catcher 35 years or older in major league history.

Trainer’s room

Nationals: Reliever Ryan Madson was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a back injury. RHP Trevor Gott and LHP Tim Collins were promoted from Triple-A Syracuse, LHP Sammy Solis was sent down, and RHP Erick Fedde was moved from the 10-day to the 60-day disabled list.

Cardinals: OF Tyler O’Neill (groin) was activated from the 10-day disabled list and OF Adolis Garcia was optioned to Triple-A Memphis.

The Nationals will start right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (5-2, 3.54 ERA) in the third game of a four-game set. Austin Gomber (2-0, 3.45 ERA) pitches for the Cardinals on Wednesday night. Hellickson is 2-2 with a 4.13 ERA in five career starts against St. Louis. Gomber is coming off his first win as a starter in a 7-0 Cardinals victory against the Kansas City Royals last Friday.