Stults, Padres hand Giants third straight loss

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Padres’ rotation is living up to expectations.

Eric Stults and three relievers combined on a four-hitter and Everth Cabrera hit a go-ahead triple to lead the Padres to a 3-1 victory against the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night.

The Padres have the chance to sweep the series on Sunday, a week after taking two of three from the Detroit Tigers.

“From the start, us as a starting five, we felt like we could match up with anybody in baseball,” Stults said. “We felt pretty good about things.”.

San Diego has won seven of 10, thanks mostly to the rotation.

“Right now we’re in a nice run of starting pitching,” manager Bud Black said. “There’s been some solid work by our starters. Starting pitching is so important to a team’s success. They’re doing their part.”.

The Giants lost their third straight game. It was the first time in nine games the Giants weren’t involved in a one-run decision.

Stults (1-2) kept the already struggling Giants off balance and largely off the base paths, allowing one run and three hits in six innings, with two strikeouts and no walks.

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Michael Morse homered off Stults on a 2-0 pitch leading off the fifth, his third. Other than that, all the Giants got off the lefty were singles by Joaquin Arias and starter Tim Hudson.

Stults was backed by some nice defense, including center fielder Alexi Amarista’s diving catch of Hunter Pence’s blooper for the second out of the first inning.

“I was able to keep my pitch count down, and I think it was just getting strike one,” Stults said. “They’re a pretty aggressive team and I had a hunch they would be swinging early. I was able to execute some pitches down in the zone. I was able to stay away from the heart of the plate.”.

Stults had thrown only 85 pitches and wanted to go back out for the seventh inning, but Black chose to send out Nick Vincent, who struck out Buster Posey, Morse and Pablo Sandoval.

Joaquin Benoit pitched the ninth for his first save.

The Giants have scored only three runs in their last 28 innings.

“The only way to get hits is to swing the bat,” Morse said. “Right now, I don’t think we’re pressing. I don’t think we are trying to do anything out of the ordinary. I just think we hit a rough spot. Our team is too good for us to be stuck in this for too much longer.”.

Still, manager Bruce Bochy is calling off batting practice for Sunday and plans to sit Sandoval, who’s hitting only .171.

“We have so many good hitters struggling right now,” Bochy said. “We didn’t create any chances, really. We didn’t get many good swings off. That’s what disappointed me tonight. You’d like to get some decent swings.”.

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San Diego’s Yonder Alonso hit an RBI single in the second. Cabrera’s triple to right-center with one out in the fifth scored Amarista, who reached after his bunt single landed between the mound and second base, and advanced on Hudson’s error on a pickoff attempt and Stults sacrifice bunt. Cabrera was thrown out trying to score on Will Venable’s grounder to first.

The Padres added on in the eighth when Will Venable doubled to left, advanced on Grandal’s fly ball and scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by pinch-hitter Chris Denorfia.

Hudson (2-1) allowed two runs and eight hits in seven innings, struck out four and walked none.

NOTES: Hudson joins Grover Cleveland Alexander (six games in 1923) and Tiny Bonham (four games in 1944) as the only starting pitchers in the last 101 seasons to open a season by throwing four games of at least seven innings while not issuing a walk. … Hudson has set the franchise record with 30 innings without a walk to open a season. … Posey and Morse were back in the Giants’ starting lineup after getting a day off. Both pinch-hit in Friday night’s 2-1 loss. .. Padres 3B Chase Headley was back in the starting lineup after missing three games with a strained right biceps. … Morse’s homer was just the eighth allowed by the Padres this year, tied with Atlanta for lowest in the majors. … The series concludes Sunday when San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum (0-1, 7.20) is scheduled to face Padres lefty Robbie Erlin (1-1, 3.18). Lincecum no-hit the Padres at Petco Park on July 13.

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