ST. LOUIS -- On an afternoon that opened with a sold-out Busch Stadium crowd watching highlights of Oscar Taveras blasting his first career home run exactly one year ago, Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who had grown close to Taveras during their short overlap in the organization, found a way to honor him with one mighty swing of his own.
Peralta's two-run homer to left field gave the Cardinals an early cushion on Sunday against starter Brett Anderson in what would finish as a 3-1 win over the Dodgers. Peralta drove in the team's final run, too, with an RBI single in the eighth.
"It was an emotional day today," Peralta said. "Everything that I saw on the [video] board about him and with his family here, I tried to do the best I could do for him because he was a good friend of mine. … The first game he hit a home run, so I think it was good for me to hit a home run, too. I give it to him."
Peralta was a late move into the third spot in the lineup after the Cardinals determined that Matt Holliday was still too under the weather to play. Peralta reached base three times and drove home a run for the sixth time in seven games.
He has quietly assumed the team lead in RBIs (30) and a share of the team lead in home runs (eight).
"You don't have many guys who can handle that three-spot, four-spot, wherever it is, and not look any different at all," manager Mike Matheny said. "Jhonny just takes a professional at-bat and always has the ability to hurt you. He got us going a little bit and gave [starter] Carlos [Martinez] some breathing room. You can never overstate how much that means when you get into a game like this and give him a little bit of room to breathe."
With Matt Adams out until at least late September, Peralta has emerged as Matheny's most attractive option to fill the cleanup spot in the order. Boosted by a 9-for-23 start to this homestand, Peralta leads all National League shortstops in hits (58) and home runs. At this time last year, Peralta was still looking for traction.
"I have felt pretty good from the beginning of the season," Peralta said. "I know last year was tough for me because I came into the National League and didn't know too much about the pitching. This year I feel more comfortable at home plate."