Jhonny Peralta picked a big time to end his homer drought, and then rookie Stephen Piscotty followed with a timely hit of his own.
Together, they combined for seven RBIs and powered the St. Louis Cardinals to a 7-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers Thursday night.
The Cardinals trailed 3-0 in the fourth when Peralta hit a three-run homer into the center field bleachers, and Piscotty followed two pitches later with a blast into the left-center seats. The homer by Peralta, St. Louis' cleanup hitter, was his first since Aug. 1.
"I've been waiting for that one a long time," Peralta said.
"That was a huge home run," Piscotty said. "We get down early and really are just trying to get one run, and he comes through and you get all three right there. It takes the pressure off the offense."
St. Louis, a major league-best 97-56, went 41 games over .500 for the first time. The Cardinals have won five straight and hold a four-game lead over Pittsburgh in the NL Central.
Piscotty added a two-run, two-out single off Taylor Jungmann (9-7) in the fifth and a run-scoring single in the seventh. Since being called up July 21, the rookie outfielder is hitting .313 with six homers and leads the Cardinals with 37 RBIs, many of them coming in key spots.
"I love it. With the fans and crowd here, once you get a little taste of that, you're not playing for your numbers," Piscotty said. "You're playing for those moments."
Peralta hit .298 with 13 homers and 46 RBIs in the first half and started in the All-Star Game but had hit .222 with no homers and 10 RBIs over his previous 45 games. Since being given consecutive days off for the first time since the break earlier this month, Peralta has driven in seven runs in 10 games.
"I see the ball jumping from him a little more," Matheny said. "I know he's been just missing a couple of balls and wanting to see something jump out of the park. He got that one to the deepest part. Perfect timing."
Michael Wacha (17-6) worked five innings and allowed three runs, all in a 28-pitch first inning when he gave up three hits and walked two. Rookie Jason Rogers singled in Milwaukee's first run, and Hernan Perez drove in two with an opposite-field double grounded just fair down the right field line.
Wacha allowed three baserunners and threw 27 pitches in the second before getting Adam Lind to ground out.
"I was able to settle down for the last few innings and get into a rhythm and make pitches," Wacha said.
Five Cardinals relievers limited the Brewers to three singles over the final four innings.
Jungmann allowed only three homers in his first 16 starts but has served up seven in his past four.
"Home runs can change a game quickly and I'm not used to that happening," he said. "When something like that does happen, it does get a little frustrating."
In his first career start, Brewers SS Yadiel Rivera grounded a single to left on the 11th pitch he saw in the first inning for his first career hit.
Brewers: C Jonathan Lucroy (concussion), out of the lineup since Sept. 8, singled in an eighth-inning pinch-hit appearance and stayed in to play first base. Lucroy is not expected to catch again this year.
Cardinals: LF Matt Holliday (quad) is being eased into his return from an eight-week stint on the disabled list. After going 1 for 3 Wednesday in his first start since July 29, Holliday was not in the lineup.
Brewers: Rookie Ariel Pena (2-0, 3.50) has pitched five innings and allowed no more than two runs in each of his first three starts, including a no-decision against the Cardinals Sept. 15.
Cardinals: Carlos Martinez (14-7, 3.01) will look to continue his dominant pitching against the Brewers. Martinez has allowed one run in 15 innings against Milwaukee, striking out 17 and giving up six hits.