ST. LOUIS (AP) John Lackey pitched seven strong innings, rookie Tommy Pham continued his productive hitting and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 3-1 Tuesday night.

Lackey (13-9) allowed only a first-inning homer by Jay Bruce during his 16th quality start in 16 outings at Busch Stadium. The veteran right-hander struck out seven, walked none and lowered his home ERA to 1.97.

St. Louis improved to a major league-best 95-56 with its second straight low-scoring victory over Cincinnati. Steve Cishek worked the ninth to earn his first save for St. Louis.

Pham hit a sacrifice fly to deep center in the seventh that scored Tony Cruz and broke a 1-all tie. Pham drove in the Cardinals' first run with a third-inning double that brought in Matt Carpenter, who doubled with one out. Since moving into the lineup eight games ago, Pham has nine RBIs, eight extra-base hits and is batting .407.

Lackey induced three ground-ball double plays in the first five innings that thwarted rallies and brought his National League-leading total to 28.

Bruce's 456-foot homer off a 93 mph fastball from Lackey was the longest by a left-handed hitter at 10-year-old Busch Stadium.

Kolten Wong drove in the Cardinals' third run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Joey Votto walked in the top of the eighth to reach base for the 39th consecutive game.


Reds: C Brayan Pena started for the first time since injuring his right hamstring Sept. 8. He singled twice in three at-bats before being lifted for a pinch runner.

Cardinals: C Yadier Molina said he plans to return before the end of the regular season despite a thumb injury. Molina was relieved to hear he would not need surgery after sustaining a slight tear in his left thumb ligament Sunday. ''Five, seven, 10 days, whatever it is, but no surgery,'' he said. ''That was good news.''


Reds: Rookie LHP Brandon Finnegan, acquired from Kansas City in the Johnny Cueto trade, will make his second career start in the finale of the three-game series. Finnegan allowed three hits and one run in five innings and picked up a win at Milwaukee last week.

Cardinals: Lance Lynn will try to get on the right track after lasting 3 1-3 innings at Wrigley Field last week. Lynn (11-10, 3.28) has a 5.11 ERA over his past five starts.