Stults baffles Braves to cap unbeaten August

Stults baffles Braves to cap unbeaten August

Stults baffles Braves to cap unbeaten August
SAN DIEGO -- Another day, another quality start, and another Padres win.

That was the simple, but fitting story for San Diego on Wednesday, a perfect way to celebrate the completion of the team's sale and the start of a new era.

The Padres kicked off that new era in impressive fashion with an 8-2 win over the Braves, their ninth win in their past 10 games.

"It was a great day, and it started off early," Padres manager Bud Black said. "There was a good feeling before the game among all of us about the new ownership group, and once the game started, baseball took over."

Or, more specifically, the man throwing the baseball for the Padres took over.

Eric Stults (5-2) worked six innings and yielded just one unearned run on five hits to give the Padres their seventh straight quality start. Despite working into multiple jams, Stults battled well and stranded seven Braves on base while holding Atlanta to an 0-for-4 mark with runners in scoring position.

That was just another day at the park for the crafty southpaw, who has been stellar since rejoining the Padres' rotation on Aug. 6. He's gone 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in that span, while striking out 18 in 32 innings.

"We had a good gameplan. I can't say enough for [pitching coach Darren] Balsley, it makes our job easier," Stults said. "It was a good all-around performance. We're a team that's been playing well, it's been a lot of fun."

But while Stults diverted the credit, his teammate Chase Headley heaped praises on his starter and his baffling 65-mph curve ball.

"He's been tremendous. He keeps us in every game, he works quick, he throws strikes," Headley said.

"We saw [that type of curve] the first night against [Braves starter Paul] Maholm and that didn't go so well. I don't like hitting those soft left-handers."

Stults and his curveball could have worked six scoreless had it not been for an unfortunate loss of footing from second baseman Logan Forsythe, who slipped as he tried to turn a double play in the fifth and threw a ball by Everth Cabrera at the second-base bag. That miscue gave the Braves runners at second and third to set up a Michael Bourn sacrifice fly that brought home the run.

But, by that time, Forsythe had already helped the Padres give Stults the only runs he would need, as it was his ringing RBI double that brought home San Diego's first run and put Mark Kotsay in position to score the second on a Cameron Maybin groundout in the bottom of the fourth.

San Diego added two more an inning later courtesy of Headley, who smacked a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth to up the lead to 4-1. In doing so, he upped his August RBI total to 30, tied for the most ever by a Padre in the month of August, and eighth-most in a month all time.

"I feel like this month, I've had so many opportunities. We've had a lot of guys do a really good job putting pressure on pitchers," Headley said. "Usually, it's a lot easier to break through in those situations."

The Padres broke through and put the game away in the eighth with a four-run outburst keyed by a two-run, pinch-hit single by Chris Denorfia, and RBI singles from Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso. Headley, Forsythe, Alonso and Will Venable had two hits apiece to pace the Padres, who got hits from eight different players in the rout. One of those players was Stults, whose third-inning single ran his batting line to 7-for-17, a .412 average.

"I keep thinking it's just luck," Stults said with a wry smile. "I got a good pitch to hit there."

As Stults kept the stingy streak alive for San Diego starters, the bullpen continued its strong showing, as well, as Tommy Layne, Dale Thayer and Brad Brach worked three combined innings of one-run relief. Layne's 1 1/3 innings of work ran his scoreless streak to 8 1/3 innings, a stretch in which he has retired 26 of 29 batters faced and struck out 13. He has yet to give up a run since being called up to the big leagues on Aug. 14.

The win gave San Diego its third straight series win, and represented quite the turnaround against an Atlanta team that outscored the Padres 18-1 in a three-game span earlier this month.

"The guys are in a good frame of mind about how they're playing," Black said. "This is pretty good stuff when you look at the results. There's a lot happening at the big league level, on the field and off the field, as well. It was a great day all around."

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