video thumbnail

SD@NYM: Stults strikes out seven over five innings

NEW YORK -- Now that's more like it.

The Padres got back to their own brand of baseball Thursday, when they played a tight National League pitchers' duel against the Mets. San Diego, which had been outscored heavily in the season's first two games, notched its first lead of the season early and held on to take a 2-1 win over the Mets.

"These are the type of games that we play," said manager Bud Black of San Diego's return to pitching-and-defense form. "These are good ones to win, when you play hard and they're tight. Every pitch is critical. It really leaves a good taste in your mouth when you walk off the field with a W."

Starter Eric Stults provided the foundation for the Padres' first victory by throwing five shutout innings, and rookie Jedd Gyorko put San Diego ahead with his first career RBI. Gyorko sent a run home on a double in the fourth inning, and the Padres (1-2) didn't score again until the eighth.

The Mets (2-1) had scored seven of the game's first eight runs on Opening Day -- all in the first five innings -- and they came back to notch eight straight runs Wednesday. But Stults slowed that runaway train, allowing just two runners to reach second base and notching seven strikeouts.

"That's his game. We saw that last year," said Black. "Mixing pitches, a variety of speeds, kept them off balance all day. High and low with the fastball. In and out with the fastball. Good overhand curve. Good change, little slider to the lefty. He pitched well.

"Really, the thing that was a little astounding for me was the high pitch count through five innings. With a shutout and only three or four hits; that's the thing that I thought was remarkable. He pitched a lot better than [95] pitches to get through five innings."

Indeed, Stults was rarely in trouble Thursday. The left-hander fanned two batters in the first inning and another two in the second, and his pitch count began to swell due to an abundance of foul balls. Stults reached 50 pitches after two innings, but he began to level off in the middle of the game.

The 33-year-old got a key double play to escape a threat in the fifth inning, and he went on to strike out three of the final five batters he faced. Black, whose relief staff had worked hard in the first two losses, considered asking Stults for another inning but ultimately elected to go to the bullpen.

"I wasn't completely surprised," said Stults of his manager's decision. "In Spring Training, I was up to 85-90 [pitches]. The first time you get to that 100-pitch mark, you just never know how you're going to feel. I felt good. I think with it being a little cooler, I didn't feel overtaxed. I felt comfortable going longer, but it's Buddy's call. He made a good call and we were able to hang on to the game."

The Padres were able to salt the game away, but not without some tense moments. Reliever Brad Brach got two outs in the sixth, and lefty Joe Thatcher struck out Lucas Duda -- who had homered and doubled in the Mets' 8-4 victory on Wednesday night -- with two men on base.

New York didn't score until the bottom of the ninth on a solo home run by John Buck, and closer Huston Street earned his first save by getting the game's final three outs. Street took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning, but Buck sat on a pitch early in the count and was able to cut the lead in half.

"I saw a long one. That ball was hit pretty well," said Black. "That's a first-pitch ambush, as the guys like to say. I thought it was a little bit up. It might've gotten a little bit of the outside of the plate, but I thought it was a little bit up and Buck was going to be aggressive. A guy like Huston, who's a supreme strike-thrower, I think you might see some hitters be aggressive on the first pitch. And this guy's strong."

Gyorko, who has started each of San Diego's first three games, came up with one out and runners at the corners in the fourth, and he drilled a liner to third off starter Dillon Gee that narrowly landed fair. Mark Kotsay came home on the play, but the advantage didn't feel secure.

The Padres, who travel next to Colorado, came away with an insurance run in the seventh inning. Chris Denorfia, who led off with a walk, moved to third base on another hit and came around to score on a wild pitch. From there, the game belonged to the San Diego bullpen, chaired by Street.

"We've played behind every game so far this series, so it was good to get that early lead," said Gyorko. "When you have pitchers like we do -- especially our bullpen -- we've got to have the lead. And once we give the game to them, we know we've got a pretty good chance of winning."

Gyorko said he got the souvenir ball from his first hit on Opening Day, but he didn't get the keepsake from his first RBI in the big leagues. But here, after a live win, was another first for his career. Gyorko was the first player approached by the media in the clubhouse and he spoke in measured tones about the win, keeping his wits about him even as the stereo blared The Rolling Stones.

"It's hard to get wins, especially on the road. It's good to get that win -- the first one -- under our belt," Gyorko said. "Hopefully, we can swing the bats a little better earlier in the game and get in the lead more often. But this is a good one. When you hear the music in the clubhouse, it's a good thing."

MLB.com Comments