Jhonny Peralta wants to prove that he can “play baseball naturally”

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On August 5 last season as a member of the Tigers, shortstop Jhonny Peralta accepted a 50-game suspension for his involvement with Biogenesis. He returned for the final three games of the regular season, then joined the Tigers in the post-season against the Athletics in the ALDS and the Red Sox in the ALCS.

Peralta became a free agent after the season. His offensive output in 2011 (.824 OPS) and ’13 (.815) was rewarded with a four-year, $52 million contract with the NL champion Cardinals. GM John Mozeliak was willing to look past Peralta’s history with PED use.

As David Wilhelm of the Belleville News-Democrat reports, Peralta is motivated to prove that he can be a productive player for the Cardinals without using performance-enhancing substances.

“I’m trying to put it in the past,” Peralta said. “I’m trying to look forward and forget about it. … I know I can play baseball naturally. I have to show people that I can do it and that I can help.

“I’m going to try to do the best I can do and try to help the Cardinals go to the World Series one more time and win.”

The Cardinals badly needed an upgrade at shortstop, as they finished 2013 with the third-lowest OPS from the position in the National League at .583, ahead of only the Marlins and Mets. Pete Kozma, who got most of the playing time at shortstop for the Cardinals, posted a .548 OPS while Daniel Descalso wasn’t much better at .656.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.