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SF@SD: Stults allows three hits, one earned over six

SAN DIEGO -- Another game and another pitching gem from a Padres' starting pitcher, though this time it wasn't Andrew Cashner throwing darts by hitters or Tyson Ross tying opposing hitters in knots with a slider that looks like it belongs in a video game.

No, Eric Stults' skill set rates as a polar opposite from others in the Padres' rotation, though his left arm is still capable of doing some big things, albeit at a slower rate of speed.

"With a guy like me, I need to live on the corners," Stults said.

Stults allowed one run over six innings on Saturday and the bullpen sufficiently covered the final three innings as the Padres edged the Giants, 3-1, before a sold-out crowd of 43,405.

The victory not only allowed the Padres (9-9) to reach the .500 mark for the very first time this season, but the quartet of Stults, Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer and Joaquin Benoit did their part to lower the club's ERA during this homestand to 2.11 after nine games.

"These guys are pitching to expectation," said Padres manager Bud Black. "… Right now, we're in a nice run of starting pitching."

Stults (1-2) allowed three hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out two. The only run he allowed came on one swing, a solo home run by Michael Morse to start the fifth inning. It was a 412-foot moon shot that landed beyond the center field fence, kicking up sand on unsuspecting fans.

"He kept the ball down, kept mixing his pitches really well," Morse said of Stults.

From there, it was the Padres' pitchers essentially kicking sand in the faces of the Giants (10-9), who had four hits. After Stults left, Vincent struck out the side in the seventh, first getting Buster Posey on a cut-fastball, and then high fastballs to Morse and Pablo Sandoval.

Thayer took care of the eighth inning and Benoit earned his first save with the Padres, covering the ninth inning for Huston Street, who got a night off after throwing 31 pitches in earning a save on Friday.

"Facing the heart of their lineup … that's where you want to be," said Vincent, who hasn't allowed a hit in his last six outings. "After I got Posey, I took a deep breath. Then I did the same when against Morse and Sandoval."

He needed to, mostly because the Padres found themselves in another tight game, as Giants pitcher Tim Hudson (2-1) was sharp, allowing two runs on eight hits with four strikeouts. He got 12 ground-ball outs.

As for Stults, who counts more on his secondary pitches and not velocity to get outs, he was able to get inside and on the hands of the right-handed hitters in the Giants' lineup.

"They're an aggressive team and I had a hunch they would swing early," Stults said. "It's important for me to keep guys honest and keep them from diving out over the plate. For the most part, I was able to stay away from the heart of the plate."

Black, who was also a left-hander who didn't rely on plus-velocity to get hitters out, said there's any number of ways to get outs. For Stults, it means being able to get inside.

"In theory, the lesser velocity you have the more proficient you have to be," Black said. "They [hitters] have to respect the inside strike."

As has been the case this season, offense was hard to come by for the Padres, who scored first when Yonder Alonso knocked in his first run since April 6 on an RBI single in the second inning off Hudson. That scored Seth Smith, who started the inning with a single.

The Padres took a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning as Alexi Amarista singled and advanced to third base on a single by Will Venable. Everth Cabrera then lined a run-scoring triple to the gap in right-center field.

Chris Denorfia provided San Diego with an insurance run in the eighth inning by laying down a perfect squeeze-bunt to plate Venable.

"It's an exciting play because it doesn't happen very often," Black said of the squeeze.

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