With two outs and runners on second and third base, Stults attempted to get All-Star Charlie Blackmon to chase after a few pitches out of the strike zone, essentially pitching around him with first base open. That led to a walk, which brought up Josh Rutledge.
"I knew with a base open I didn't want to give him [Blackmon] anything good to hit there. I felt confident going up against Rutledge and was willing to challenge him. He was fighting off fastballs and I was finally able to sneak one by him," Stults said of the 90 mph fastball he pushed past Rutledge to end the inning.
All told, Stults (8-17) allowed seven hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings with one walk and five strikeouts and the bullpen did the rest as the Padres (75-81) won the first game of a three-game series before a crowd of 19,770.
Stults' ability to work out of that jam in the fifth inning was one of the few hair-raising moments in this one, even though the Rockies (65-92) had twice as many hits (10) as the Padres.
Colorado starting pitcher Tyler Matzek (6-11) allowed one run over six innings on four hits. He walked three and had eight strikeouts.
It went for naught, though, as Stults and relievers Nick Vincent, Frank Garces, Dale Thayer and Kevin Quackenbush held the Rockies without a run.
"We couldn't cash in. We had a couple of opportunities. He's [Stults] been tough on us," said Colorado manager Walt Weiss. "He keeps you in a rocking chair. He adds and subtracts, on both sides of the plate, pitches backwards and commands the ball. He was pitching tonight."
The Padres got the lone run of the game off Matzek in the first inning as Jedd Gyorko walked with two outs and scored as Rene Rivera doubled to the gap in right-center field for his 41st RBI of the season.
The Padres loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning against Matzek, who struck out Tommy Medica and Rymer Liriano to end the inning.
DJ LeMahieu and Justin Morneau each finished with two hits for the Rockies. Morneau had a leadoff double in the eighth inning but the Rockies couldn't capitalize as Thayer got the next three hitters out. Quackenbush followed with three outs in the ninth inning for his sixth save.
But this one was all about Stults, who struggled early in the season but has a 2.92 ERA over his last 10 starts.
"He's kept at it, because that's how his mentality is," Gyorko said. "He'll battle his [rear] off. The way he has pitched in the second half has been impressive."