Peralta flexes his muscles in win over Bucs

News-DemocratApril 27, 2014 

— Shortstop Jhonny Peralta is starting to show St. Louis Cardinals fans what he's all about.

Peralta clubbed two home runs and drove in four Sunday as the Cardinals drubbed the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-0 at Busch Stadium.

"My approach today was to hit the ball to the middle of the field," Peralta said. "I tried to make good contact with the ball. I don't try to hit home runs. The only way is I try to make good contact and the home runs come."

Peralta hit a bases-empty homer in the fifth and a three-run shot in the sixth, both against Pirates starter Edinson Volquez (1-2).

Peralta's first homer, which landed in the second deck and traveled 427 feet, made it 2-0 and snapped the Cardinals' string of 366 at-bats without a long ball. Their last home run had been by Allen Craig on April 16 --10 games earlier. Peralta's second homer, a 396-foot drive into the Pirates' bullpen in left, made it 6-0.

"As soon as I hit (the first) one, I knew it was gone for sure. I hit it pretty good," Peralta said. "The second home run, I didn't know for sure it was gone. He threw me a pretty good changeup."

Peralta became the first Cardinals shortstop to hit as many as six home runs in March and April. Edgar Renteria hit five in 2000.

"I didn't know anything about that. That's good to know," said Peralta, batting .195. "It feels pretty good. I've not hit a lot of homers in April before. Coming here to the National League and St. Louis, it's pretty good to know."

The Cardinals have just 14 home runs and a .352 slugging percentage in 26 games. Manager Mike Matheny, who has downplayed the lack of power, adopted a humorous tack to Peralta's big swings that supported pitcher Adam Wainwright (5-1).

"We took a different philosophy. We told Jhonny he could try for home runs today," Matheny quipped.

"No ... I can't tell you how many swings (Peralta) has had this year where he looks like he's right on it," he said. "He looks like he's timed up for most pitches, most of the time. He's strong enough that when he finds the barrel, the ball jumps for him."

Wainwright was sensational, blanking the Pirates on three singles in eight innings to become the first five-game winner in the major leagues. He walked two and struck out seven, extending his scoreless-innings streak to 25.

"To watch Wainwright, I know it's a winning game," Peralta said. "He's doing pretty good for us. Every time he goes to the mound, I know he's got it. I know he pitches a lot of innings, and it's good to play behind Wainwright every day."

Brewers on deck

Milwaukee will make its first trip of the season to Busch Stadium at 7:15 p.m. Monday in the opener of a three-game series.

The Brewers, who dropped two of three to the Cardinals in Milwaukee two weeks ago, have been one of the biggest stories in baseball with their 18-7 record. They lead the Cardinals by 4 1/2 games in the NL Central.

"I'm seeing a good team that we knew was good last year," Matheny said. "They were much better than what people gave them credit for last year.

"They're not going anywhere. They're going to be right in the middle of this, and the Central is going to be a tough division again. They're a good club. They've got what they need to be successful. ... We like the opportunity to go head-to-head with them."

Michael Wacha (2-2, 2.10 ERA) will pitch for the Cardinals against Yovani Gallardo (2-0, 1.42 ERA) in the series opener. Gallardo is 1-11 with a 6.46 ERA in 17 career starts against the Cardinals, but 82-42 with a 3.41 ERA against all other opponents.

Lance Lynn (4-1, 3.30 ERA) will match up against former Cardinal Kyle Lohse (4-1, 2.38 ERA) at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, and Shelby Miller (2-2, 2.86 ERA) will work the finale against Matt Garza (1-2, 4.09 ERA) at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday.

"They've got a good club," Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams said. "The Central is packed with great teams. We're just going to treat it like any other series: Go out there each night and compete and try to get a 'W.'"

Lyons in line

Matheny said left-hander Tyler Lyons, the losing pitcher Saturday when he gave up four runs to the Pirates in the fourth against will get another start Friday against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Lyons is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA as he fills the void for the injured Joe Kelly. He has 11 strikeouts in 12 innings, and opposing hitters are batting .222 against him.

"Overall, he's done a real nice job," Matheny said. "He kind of rolled there when he got on a good rhythm (Saturday). I believe he's earned another opportunity."

Silver Sluggers

Third baseman Matt Carpenter and catcher Yadier Molina received their 2013 Silver Slugger Awards during a pregame ceremony. The players were joined on the field by Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and General Manager John Mozeliak.

The Silver Slugger Awards were the first for both players. The Cardinals had not had a Silver Slugger since Albert Pujols in 2010.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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