Peralta's homer wins game, and then some

Peralta's homer wins game, and then some

CHICAGO -- Unable to watch the final inning because he was ejected, manager Mike Matheny stationed himself just inside the tunnel that connects the clubhouse to the dugout. There, he figured, he could at least listen.

What Matheny heard as Jhonny Peralta crushed a Pedro Strop fastball into the left-field seats was deflation from a home crowd that was one strike away from celebrating a series win and elation from a visitor's dugout that had just saved itself from a third straight loss.

He could also feel the game-changing nature of the win, this one a 6-5 victory to salvage a series sweep at Wrigley Field.

"That would have been a tough one to lose," said Matheny, whose team had earlier frittered away a four-run lead. "That's a big character win right there."

The postgame reaction to the team's 23rd come-from-behind win of the year gave the impression that it was perhaps the biggest yet. Instead of dragging a three-game skid into Pittsburgh for another huge, four-game division series, the Cardinals maintain their 4 1/2-game lead in the National League Central. That means that regardless what happens against the Pirates, the Cardinals will open the second half in first place.

"We needed this game," Peralta said. "That game was very important to us."

Handed a one-run lead, Strop opened the ninth without issue. He retired two batters on five pitches, but allowed St. Louis to stay alive by issuing a four-pitch walk to Matt Carpenter, who had been 0-for-4 on the night.

After fouling off a fastball, Peralta saw two straight sliders from the Cubs reliever. With the count 1-2, he didn't expect a third. He guessed sinker, and Strop left him a fat one over the heart of the plate. Peralta hammered it for his team-leading 12th homer.

"I have a lot of hits in my career, but that was one of my best," said Peralta, who already had a walk-off homer (May 25 vs. Arizona) on his season highlight list. "It is a good moment for me right now."

The home run helped the Cardinals improve to 9-4 against the Cubs this season and prevent the team's third three-game losing streak of the season.

"It was huge. I think every win can be huge, but sometimes the way in which you do it definitely adds a little of emphasis," Matheny said. "Man, I just love when these guys don't give up. I don't know if I get any more of a charge out of this game than seeing guys get knocked down and watch how they respond, and see who steps up and does something special."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.