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Pham fuels Cardinals in return to lineup

Special to MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- Tommy Pham returned with flair and Miles Mikolas pitched 6 2/3 strong innings as the Cardinals edged the Padres, 2-1, on Thursday night at Petco Park.

"Instantly, he makes a difference,'' manager Mike Matheny said of his center fielder.

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SAN DIEGO -- Tommy Pham returned with flair and Miles Mikolas pitched 6 2/3 strong innings as the Cardinals edged the Padres, 2-1, on Thursday night at Petco Park.

"Instantly, he makes a difference,'' manager Mike Matheny said of his center fielder.

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Pham, who missed four games with a groin injury, had a home run among his two hits and scored both of St. Louis' runs. He singled to lead off the game and then advanced to third on a wild pitch and passed ball. Jose Martinez's run-scoring fly gave the Cardinals a 1-0 edge.

"I was well prepared,'' Pham said. "The days I didn't play, I made sure I stayed up to date, prepared and on top of my hitting. I prepared like I was playing, so it helped for today. I made sure my timing was there. I still focused on getting better, although I was limited as far as running.''

In the fifth inning, Pham was treated to an elevated 82 mph curveball from Jordan Lyles that split the plate. Pham knocked the offering 371 feet into the left-field seats, pushing St. Louis' advantage to 2-0.

"I just battled,'' Pham said. "I'm glad I got the barrel to the ball. I was 0-2 in that at-bat and I laid off some tough pitches. I got myself a hanging breaking ball in the strike zone and I didn't miss it.''

The Cards had missed Pham, as they lost two of the games he was sidelined.

"He gets on base, makes them think about him, and next thing you know, a couple of balls get by and Jose did a nice job of getting the ball in the air," Matheny said. "[Pham] squared four balls up today and it was nice to see him back.''

Mikolas (5-0), a 2009 Padres Draft pick, allowed a run, five hits and a walk, while striking out four.

"Whatever I'm doing is working,'' Mikolas said. "My defense really had my back tonight and when they make those kind of defensive plays, it gives me confidence. Even when I'm out there and if my stuff is not all there, I just pound the zone and let them put them in play and good things are going to happen.''

Video: STL@SD: Mikolas freezes Pirela to finish the 6th

Added Pham: "He was awesome. Any time you have a guy who goes out there and gives you an outing like that, you want to give him the win. He is pitching at an All-Star caliber, right now.''

The Padres chased Mikolas on Raffy Lopez's homer, a two-out, full-count fastball, which traveled 411 feet over the center-field wall. Reliever Jordan Hicks entered and got Freddy Galvis on a fly ball.

Greg Holland earned a hold by working the eighth and Bud Norris' clean ninth netted his eighth save.

Video: STL@SD: Norris retires Headley to seal Cardinals' win

"I thought [Holland] threw the ball well and Bud continues to do what we need him to do,'' Matheny said.

Lyles (0-1) pitched well in his first start of the season. He surrendered two runs (one earned), five hits and a walk, with six strikeouts.

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Jose Pirela hit a laser off the fence in the fourth inning and it ricocheted quickly to Cardinals left fielder Marcell Ozuna. What looked like a double off the bat became a close play at second base with Pirela being retired on Ozuna's clean throw and Kolten Wong's quick tag. Franchy Cordero followed with a single, which likely would have scored Pirela to tie the score.

Video: STL@SD: Out call stands on Ozuna's strong throw

SOUND SMART
Thursday's win of the 2-1 variety was nothing new for the Cardinals. Of their last seven victories, six of them have come by one run.

"It says a lot about our team,'' Norris said. "That we will fight all the way to the end.''

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Third baseman Matt Carpenter sprinted well behind the bag in foul territory for Travis Jankowski's sixth-inning popup. Carpenter made a nifty over-the-shoulder-catch only to have the ball squirm out of his glove. He caught it a second time, with the ball settling at the top of the glove's webbing for the out.

Video: STL@SD: Carpenter makes tough over-the-shoulder grab

UP NEXT
Right-hander Luke Weaver will start the second contest of this four-game series in San Diego on Friday, with first pitch at 9:10 pm CT. Weaver is 1-0 lifetime against the Padres and will be making his Petco Park debut. Weaver has allowed at least four earned runs in each of his last four starts. The Padres will counter with left-handed rookie Eric Lauer.

Jay Paris is a contributor to MLB.com based in San Diego.

St. Louis Cardinals, Miles Mikolas, Tommy Pham