Bats slowed down by Padres' Stults in opener

Bats slowed down by Padres' Stults in opener

Bats slowed down by Padres' Stults in opener
ATLANTA -- On a cool, breezy night when left-hander Mike Minor was the victim of some bad luck, the Braves offense went silent and was unable to pick up the young southpaw.

The Padres scratched out three runs in six innings against Minor and beat the Braves, 4-1, in Monday's series opener at Turner Field.

The Braves were held in check by veteran left-hander Eric Stults, who kept them off-balance with an effective mix of his upper-80s fastball and offspeed pitches.

For just the sixth time in 115 games this season, the Braves didn't draw a walk. They are 1-5 in those games. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Stults was able to get the Braves away from their patient approach at the plate, inviting them to hack at balls nipping the corners of the strike zone to his benefit.

"He got us out of our normal game plan of seeing pitches and work the count a little bit and go deep in the count," Gonzalez said. "He really, really was frustrating to hit off of."

Drawn away from their comfortable approach, the Braves managed just one run against Stults, who has bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen this season. He threw a season-high 7 2/3 innings and retired the first 11 batters he faced. Stults also was able to silence the Braves' four powerful left-handed hitters, who combined to go 2-for-13 against him.

The Padres' fielders seemed to be in perfect position to take hits away from the Braves, who were 5-for-29 on balls in play. Atlanta's hard luck against Stults got so bad that catcher Brian McCann ripped a line drive foul down the right-field line, right into the glove of the waiting ball boy.

Stults was also able to take advantage of the heavy air and a steady wind blowing in from center field, remnants of heavy rain that delayed the first pitch by 25 minutes.

"He really had them off balance. That was textbook keeping them off balance," Padres manager Bud Black said. "You saw 90 mph at the high end, 66 at the low end. It's tough to time him up."

The Braves scored their lone run with two outs in the eighth inning. Michael Bourn hit a slow roller to the left side that Padres shortstop Logan Forsythe was unable to make a barehanded play on, his only hope of getting the speedy Bourn. Martin Prado followed with a triple into the right-field corner, scoring Bourn and ending Stults' night. The threat ended when reliever Luke Gregerson struck out Jason Heyward to end the inning.

While the Braves may have had their unlucky moments Monday night, third baseman Chipper Jones wasn't willing to write off their shortcomings against Stults as bad luck.

"I saw a lot of weak ground balls and weak fly balls, to be honest with you," Jones said. "Everybody came back saying the same thing, 'Just missed it.' At some point, how about somebody not missing it, you know?"

While Stults was frustrating Atlanta, the Padres were getting the bounces the Braves weren't. While Minor allowed three runs in six innings, he didn't give up many hard-hit balls. He was hurt by several soft hits that found holes in the Braves defense. Two of the nine hits Minor allowed went for extra bases, but just as many were infield hits and another came against a drawn-in infield.

"I feel like there was a lot of bad luck tonight and a mixture of good hitting on their part," Minor said. "I feel like I made some quality pitches and just didn't have a good outcome."

Gonzalez said he thought Minor gave the Braves a chance to win and just fell victim to one of baseball's hard-luck nights.

"That's the way the game is sometimes ... cruel," Gonzalez said. "They got a couple runs that [are] jam shots and ... infield singles. That's just the way it goes."

While Minor kept the Braves in the game, they once again lost to a left-handed starter. Atlanta fell to 19-25 against left-handed starters, compared to 47-24 against right-handers. With the Padres starting Clayton Richard, another veteran left-hander Tuesday night, the Braves will have another chance to solve their problems against southpaws.

"It's just one of those nights," Gonzalez said. "You've got to come out tomorrow and [Tim Hudson] will give us a good outing and [we've got] to start swinging the bats."

Teddy Cahill is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.