The Atlanta Braves called it frustrating.
Stults combined with two relievers on a five-hitter, Chase Headley homered and drove in two runs and the Padres beat Atlanta 4-1 on Monday night.
Stults (3-2) gave up five hits and one run in 7⅔ innings – his longest start in three years. While with the Dodgers, Stults beat the Giants 8-0 on May 9, 2009, his last complete game.
Stults kept his pitch count low early in the game against Atlanta’s impatient hitters.
“They were swinging early in counts,” Stults said. “I was able to get some quick outs, which allowed me to go deeper into the game.”
Stults’ curveballs were clocked in the mid-60s, making his high-80s fastball look faster. That range helped keep Atlanta’s batters off balance.
“He frustrated us,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He got us out of our normal game plan of seeing pitches and working the count a little bit.
“He really, really was frustrating. We just weren’t our normal selves.”
The Padres, who had a six-game winning streak snapped on Sunday, have won eight of 10 for the first time this season.
Stults pitched for Los Angeles from 2006-09 and appeared in six games with Colorado in 2011. Any memories of Stults were too few and too faint to be of help to the Braves.
“It’s the first time we’ve faced him,” said Martin Prado, who actually was 2 for 4 in his career against the left-hander before Monday. “For me, I was trying to recognize what he had.
“He looked pretty good. He was mixing all his pitches in a real good way. We were trying to figure it out. The next time we’ve got to be patient, because he’s one of those guys who can spot the ball.”
Black said Stults’ change of speeds made it difficult for the Braves.
“When you have a range like he did as far as velocity, 90 at the high end and 66 at the low, that’s awful tough,” Black said.
Stults did not walk a batter.
“He was spotting the ball well, in and out, up and down,” Black said. “It really was classic pitching.”
Atlanta starter Mike Minor (6-9) gave up three runs and nine hits in six innings.
Stults has worked in relief and as a starter since he was claimed off waivers from the White Sox on May 17. He has won back-to-back starts, including 5⅓ innings in a 2-0 win over the Cubs on Aug. 6.
Stults was dominant early, allowing only one hit in the first five innings. That was nothing new; in his first six starts with the White Sox and Padres, he had a 0.75 ERA in the first four innings. Stults’ problems had come after the fourth, when he had a 6.94 ERA.
This time, Stults retained his edge longer into the game.
The Braves’ first threat came in the fourth, when Heyward reached on first baseman Alonso’s fielding error with two outs and moved to third on Chipper Jones’ single to left. Freddie Freeman’s groundout ended the inning.
Prado and Heyward had consecutive singles with two outs in the sixth before Jones ended the inning with a fly ball to center.
Denorfia led off the second with a double and later scored on Cameron Maybin’s sacrifice fly. Denorfia led off the sixth with a triple and scored on Alonso’s single.
Stults singled in the sixth and scored on a single by Headley, who was thrown out as he tried to advance to second. Headley hit his 19th homer off Chad Durbin in the seventh.