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Stults, Padres shut down Mets to get into win column

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Eric Stults and the San Diego Padres bullpen provided exactly what was needed Thursday afternoon.

Stults threw five shutout innings and combined with five relievers on a five-hitter as the Padres salvaged the finale of a three-game series by edging the New York Mets, 2-1, at Citi Field.

The Padres were reeling after lopsided season-opening losses in which starters Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard allowed 14 runs in just 7 1/3 innings.

But Stults and the relievers steadied the Padres in an impressive effort. The six pitchers combined to strike out 14 Mets and didn't allow a baserunner past second until John Buck homered leading off the ninth against closer Huston Street, who retired the next three batters without incident.

"It's just really important to get that first [win] out of the way," said Padres reliever Luke Gregerson, who set up Street by striking out three in 1 2/3 innings. "You start a season losing too many in a row and you start getting lulled into a place where you don't want to be."

The Padres pitchers were especially dominant against the middle of the Mets order. David Wright, Ike Davis, Marlon Byrd and Lucas Duda, the Mets' three through six hitters, went 0-for-12 with 10 strikeouts.

The only hitters to succeed against the Padres on Thursday were Buck, who went 2-for-4, and second baseman Justin Turner, who was 3-for-4.

"We've got some power, but we've got to realize we've gotta [make] base hits count at times," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I thought Eric Stults pitched really good. Really kept us off-balance, great changeup, threw his curveball whenever he wanted to, a lot of times in hitter's counts."

Padres manager Bud Black was similarly impressed with the craftiness of his right-hander.

"Mixed up pitches, a variety of speeds, kept them off-balance all day," Black said. "High and low with the fastball, in and out with the fastball, good overhand curve, good change, little slider to the lefty. Pitched well."

Stults labored at times -- he threw 95 pitches in his five innings -- but stranded four baserunners in the first three innings before retiring the final six batters he faced. He ended up allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out seven.

"I looked up early and saw high-40s [pitch count], then 50 after two and I really wasn't walking guys," Stults said. "It was cooler and I told Buddy I felt comfortable going longer, but it was Buddy's call, and it was a good call."

Stults was just as effective last season, when he established career-best numbers in almost every category. Stults, whom the Padres acquired off waivers from the White Sox in May, went 8-3 with a 2.92 ERA in 18 games, including 14 starts.

He ended the season by throwing at least 5 1/3 innings in each of his final 10 starts, a stretch in which he went 7-1 with a 2.79 ERA.

"Years past, I might get four, five starts and then get sent back down to the minor leagues and then come back up -- I was always bouncing back and forth," said Stults, who has also spent time in the bigs with the Dodgers and Rockies. "I think it's a little bit tougher [for] a starting pitcher when your routine gets thrown off."

The Padres took their first lead of the season in the fourth when they recorded all three of their hits off Mets hard-luck loser Dillon Gee, who retired 10 in a row before Mark Kotsay's blooper into short left field eluded the outstretched, bare-handed grab of shortstop Ruben Tejada.

Yonder Alonso, who went 2-for-4 in the game, followed with a single before Jedd Gyorko's double to left brought Kotsay home.

"It's easier playing with a lead," Kotsay said. "With our pitching staff and our bullpen, it's a lot easier playing with a lead."

Alonso also helped create a run in the eighth. Chris Denorfia led off with a walk against Jeurys Familia and went to third on Alonso's single before he raced home on a wild pitch by Familia.

Gee walked three and struck out four in 6 1/3 innings.

NOTES: Gee was making his first start since July 7 of last season. He underwent surgery July 13 to repair a damaged artery in his right (pitching) shoulder. ... Buck went 2-for-4 in all three games of the series, with two homers. He hit .192 with 12 homers in 343 at-bats for the Marlins last year. ... Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, who led the NL with 44 stolen bases last year, swiped his first bag of the season when he stole second in the fifth inning. ... Gyorko, one of just seven Padres rookies to start for the team on Opening Day since 1995, had a hit in all three games.
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