PIT@STL: Peralta starts an inning-ending double play

ST. LOUIS -- Still seeking his timing on offense, Jhonny Peralta said he hopes he can at least find opportunities to contribute on defense, as the shortstop did in Friday's 1-0 win.

After watching Peralta stop a sharp liner to start a third-inning double play and later hustle to third to complete an eighth-inning rundown, manager Mike Matheny noted that he had not seen a better defensive game from Peralta this year. The 32-year-old infielder agreed, describing himself as "lighter" on his feet after an early afternoon defensive session with third-base coach Jose Oquendo.

Now, the task is to get his swing right. Peralta did tally a pair of hits Friday, giving him at least some positive momentum. In doing so, he snapped an 0-for-22 skid and raised his average to .169. Peralta has pulled that average north of .200 for only one day this season.

"I think he's just fighting to contribute one way or another, and I don't think he's felt that he's been on top of his game, obviously on the offensive side, but I think he hasn't felt that way defensively either," Matheny said. "I don't think one is causing the other, but I think both are just magnifying, in his mind, because as a very good player you just sit there and say, 'These guys haven't even seen what I can do.' More importantly, the guys in [the clubhouse], but also fans that are following every day."

Peralta entered this season a career .266/.329/.425 hitter in 12 Major League seasons.

Matheny not concerned with Cards' power outage

STL@MIL: Craig hits a solo homer for first of season

ST. LOUIS -- Another homerless game on Friday extended the Cardinals' power drought to nine games -- a distinction that might normally go mostly unnoticed if not for the team's recent struggles to score at all.

It has been 322 at-bats since the Cardinals last went deep, that coming with Allen Craig's solo homer in the sixth inning of the team's April 16 loss to the Brewers. Power hasn't manifested itself in extra-base hits, either, as the Cardinals have only 18 during that span.

Count manager Mike Matheny among those unconcerned -- not that the Cardinals are laboring to score, but in the specifics of how they do so.

"Just like last year, it didn't mean anything to me and I don't think it means too much to our guys except people want to keep making a big deal of it," Matheny said. "When we're scoring runs like we were last year, the home runs and the power production numbers don't mean anything to us. Once again, if we're not scoring runs, it stands out and is something you maybe point to."

Indeed, this is a topic two years in the making. The Cardinals saw a dip in home runs last season, one year after having five players reach the 20-homer mark individually. The 125 homers hit in 2013 was the team's lowest season total in a non-strike shortened season since 1993, when the club had 118.

Through 24 games this year, the Cardinals have hit just 12. Only the Royals, with nine, have a lower team total. Yadier Molina and Jhonny Peralta are the only Cardinals players to have hit at least two home runs for a team currently on pace for 81.

The expectation is that the total will rise as the temperature does. The organization is also interested to see how the addition of Ballpark Village behind the left-center-field side of Busch Stadium affects the wind stream in balls hit that way.

"I was watching [batting practice] yesterday and Craig and [Matt] Holliday lost about $2,000 worth of balls," Matheny said. "Little warmer and maybe the new building out there is going to help it a little out there, too. I didn't see that many balls leave the field in a month last year in batting practice. I don't know why. It just hasn't carried the last couple of years. We'll see if things are any different. I think it has something to do with it getting a little warmer, maybe, and maybe the new structure out there will help things as well."

For comparison, the Cardinals were sitting on 19 home runs heading into game No. 25 a year ago.

"I think that we'll have better power numbers than we had last year just by default, because I think history shows with the guys on this club," Matheny said. "We need to get guys locked in, taking good at-bats. I think their natural ability is going to allow for the ball to travel a little further at times than others and those numbers will most likely be there. But it can't be a focus."

Worth noting

• Catcher Yadier Molina entered Saturday riding a 15-game hitting streak, tying him for the longest active hitting streak in the Majors. Nolan Arenado of Colorado has it equaled. Molina is closing in on the franchise's longest hitting streak by a catcher which is 20 games, set by Walker Cooper in 1944.

• While the Cardinals collected their fifth shutout of the season on Friday, the organization's Triple-A affiliate secured its second. Angel Castro (2-2) pitched the first five innings before handing the game over to Jorge Rondon, Keith Butler and David Aardsma. Memphis finished with 15 hits -- one from every position player in the starting lineup -- in the 8-0 win.

• Matheny started Mark Ellis and Peter Bourjos on Saturday in order to stack his lineup with right-handed batters against Pirates lefty Francisco Liriano. Bourjos entered the game 1-for-16 against lefties this season but 5-for-14 in his career against Liriano.