Cardinals’ Jhonny Peralta Cleaning Up
Though the rest of his team might be struggling to take advantage of the opportunities when they come, one Cardinal player has been coming up big when his team needs him most. Jhonny Peralta began Opening Night in a cleanup role playing against the Cubs’ Jon Lester, where he didn’t manage to produce despite runners in a scoring position at his first three times at bat. Yet he’s managed to reverse the trend during the last four games as he’s been batting during the fifth spot, managing to hit a perfect 3 of 3 with runners in position to score.
This doesn’t even count the two-run game-tying home run in Sunday’s eighth inning at Cincinnati, which set things up for Matt Carpenter’s game-winner three innings later, bringing things to a 7-5 series win. Peralta almost managed to set off another rally when he started leading the ninth inning on Monday with a line drive up the middle, but the Brewers’ Francisco Rodriguez managed to pull off an incredible snag in the first out before he sealed the Cardinals’ 5-4 loss.
Cardinals’ manager Matheny told reporters after the game “I still don’t know how” Rodriguez managed to catch the ball, and it was a shame since the team would have had an opportunity to get Bourjos onto base and “cause a little havoc.”
The single would also have brought Peralta’s average up to .400, though for the moment he’ll have to be satisfied with a .360 (the best on the team) and scorig at least a hit in each game. Thanks to good timing on most of the latest hits, he’s also been leading his team with six RBIs. (Fans can get tickets to watch the St. Louis Cardinals and Peralta’s hitting here.)
Considering that the team’s three losses have come from a combination of four runs, it’s clear the missed opportunities could have been valuable for St. Louis. Overall, the Cardinals have managed to hit just .220 over the season when runners have been in scoring position, including a worst-in-the-MLB .083 with two outs.
No player has struggled more than Matt Adams, the Cardinals’ cleanup hitter, despite the way he managed to pull off his second run in the season from a groundout during the third inning. The first baseman managed his first hit during a key solo home run in the win on Saturday, but he’s still playing 0 for 6 when runners are in scoring position.
Most of St. Louis’ top three hitters are doing their job, though Jason Heyward has had some bad luck with some great defensive plays succeeding against him. Both Matt Holliday and Carpenter have on-base percentages over .400, which makes it critical for them to get backing from teammates who can bring them home.
Heyward told reporters that “it’s huge for anyone,” since “any little thing” puts pressure on defense.
Maybe Peralta’s recent successes might earn him a move up in the Cardinal’s lineup again, and team manager Matt Matheny has acknowledged Peralta has stood out as the one player who’s been coming through consistently in big situations. Of course it’s still too early for drastic changes or panic.