Suppan earns win with five scoreless innings

Suppan earns win with five scoreless innings

Suppan earns win with five scoreless innings
SAN DIEGO -- A few minutes after the Padres put the last touches on their first series victory of the year -- with successive shutouts of the Brewers, no less -- San Diego manager Bud Black gushed over what he had just witnessed.

"Isn't that great," Black told a group of reporters. "Isn't that wonderful."

Black wasn't merely speaking about the Padres' 5-0 victory over the Brewers on Wednesday in front of a crowd of 15,786 at Petco Park, but much more so to the performance of 37-year-old pitcher Jeff Suppan in his first Major League start since Oct. 3, 2010.

Suppan, added to the 25-man roster earlier in the day as a replacement for starting pitcher Cory Luebke, who went on the disabled list with a strained left elbow, tossed five scoreless innings, allowing four hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

Not too shabby for a pitcher who spent the entire 2011 season pitching in Triple-A and who missed most of March with a strained right triceps injury in Spring Training that waylaid the start of his year with the Triple-A Tucson Padres.

"He's a guy who wanted to play and compete, who went through the rigors of Spring Training and had a setback and fought through it to get healthy and win a Major League game," Black said. "He's a great guy, a great competitor and was a great story today."

Suppan's performance -- he got 11 ground-ball outs while never topping 90 mph -- should serve as a clinic of sorts for the younger pitchers on the staff, Black and Suppan's catcher, John Baker, agreed after the game.

"He knows what he needs to do to get guys out," Black said. "You see [Anthony] Bass, [Joe] Wieland and guys like Luebke and they still have to learn their game. Jeff knows his game. The basic principles of pitching ... he knows them."

Wieland, a 22-year-old rookie who joined the rotation last month, marveled at the way Suppan worked on Wednesday. How he buried his pitches in the strike zone, how he kept the ball away from thumpers like Ryan Braun and Corey Hart.

Wieland's succinct conclusion?

"I'm going to be watch his tape for sure," Wieland said.

As for Suppan, who spent the winter working at the restaurant he and his wife own in Woodland Hills, Calif., -- that would be, what else, Soup's Sports Grill -- he spoke modestly of his accomplishment after the game, saying that he hadn't considered much the significance of going so long between victories.

"I had a lot of emotions coming in today and good nerves," Suppan said. "But my job was to get my butterflies to fly in formation. I wanted to go out and follow a game plan. That's where my focus was."

The Padres (9-17) backed Suppan with three runs in the third inning as Mark Kotsay had an RBI double and Cameron Maybin added a two-run single. Jesus Guzman added a pinch-hit, two-run double in the eighth inning for some breathing room against the Brewers (11-14).

Suppan threw 74 pitches and seldom found himself stressed against his former team. With one out in the fourth inning, Hart and Jonathan Lucroy reached on consecutive singles. A walk to Alex Gonzalez loaded the bases for Travis Ishikawa, who grounded a ball sharply to first baseman Yonder Alonso to start a 3-6-1, inning-ending double play.

"He's unflappable. He's the kind of pitcher who you know is going to execute 98 percent of his pitches ... and that's what he did today," Baker said. "It was enjoyable for me. And I think it's a good lesson to the younger guys on this team that you don't have to throw 95 mph to be successful."

The Padres certainly needed a lift after a 7-17 month of April and Suppan gave them one headed into the off-day Thursday. But if there was an implication that the veteran right-hander, who, after all, has won 139 career games, surprised the Brewers, well, they weren't buying it.

"He didn't surprise me at all. He's had plenty of success in the big leagues," said Braun, who grounded out in two at-bats against Suppan and exited in the sixth inning with a sore Achilles tendon.

"It was disappointing," Braun said. "It would have been nice if we got to him, but it didn't surprise me, by any means."

The consecutive shutouts marked the first time the Padres had won so since July 2-3 of 2010, the year the Padres won 90 games. The Padres actually pulled that off twice in 2010 and have now shut out the Brewers on six of their past nine trips to Petco Park.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.