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Kolten clears ‘em with slam


ST. LOUIS — At his locker stall, Kolten Wong basked in the afterglow of the grand slam that busted the St. Louis Cardinals’ offensive slump. The rookie just kept smiling.

“It was awesome,” Wong said after he hit his first major league home in an 8-7 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night. “I couldn’t hold my excitement.”

The clubhouse was otherwise pretty silent after the pitching fell short once again.

“Go a couple days without scoring runs, you can see it on his face,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We needed that, it was a great spark.

“We can’t complain about what the offense did today. It just wasn’t enough.”

Facing Kansas City’s James Shields in his 199th career at-bat in the majors, the 2008 Kamehameha-Hawaii graduate’s first career grand slam at any level in the second ended the Cardinals’ 20-inning scoreless drought and gave them an early four-run cushion. Matheny gave Wong a hug and then sent him out for a curtain call.

Wong jammed his shoulder making a diving stop at second base on Billy Butler’s hit in the eighth and thought he might miss one game.

He also had reason to smile earlier Tuesday when he was chosen the NL rookie of the month.

Wong started May at Triple-A Memphis, but in 13 games back in the big leagues he batted .333 on the strength of an eight-game hitting streak. He also drove in six runs and swiped four bases.

The defending National League champions finished a dismal 2-7 homestand when their pitchers faltered.

Eric Hosmer hit a tiebreaking single off closer Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth inning to give the Royals their second straight road victory in the four-game, two-city series.

Alex Gordon’s three-run homer capped a six-run fifth for the Royals, who batted around and hit for the cycle against Jaime Garcia and took a two-run lead.

“I just wasn’t able to execute,” Garcia said. “I’ve got to go out and do a better job than that.”

No Cardinals relievers warmed up during the rally. Matheny said after the game that some members of the bullpen had been unavailable.

“I’m on the mound, I’m trying to execute pitches until the manager takes the ball out of my hand,” Garcia said. “I’m not looking anywhere else.”

Shields also scuffled, surrendering five earned runs in 5 1-3 innings, and has given up seven homers his last three starts. Shields helped himself with two hits, including an RBI double.

Peter Bourjos’ 422-foot homer put the Cardinals ahead 7-6 in the sixth. Alcides Escobar’s bloop RBI single off Pat Neshek tied it in the eighth, a rally fueled by pinch hitter Butler’s infield hit.

Omar Infante doubled off Rosenthal (0-3) with one out in the ninth ahead of Hosmer’s hit.

Greg Holland worked the ninth for his 16th save in 17 chances for the Royals, the home team for the last two games of intrastate interleague series that resumes Wednesday.

Wade Davis (5-1) pitched the eighth and got the win.

 

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