San Diego Padres pitcher Eric Stults threw a winning 6-3 game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, his former club, which included pitching six innings and hitting his first ever career home run to boot. While the rest of the Padres played a solid game, it was clear that the end of their five-game losing streak would not have been possible without the leadership and power that Stults brought to Dodgers stadium last night.
In the Padres’ first game against the Dodgers since last week’s bench-clearing brawl, tensions were running high. Both Padres’ outfielder Carlos Quentin and Dodgers’ pitcher Zack Greinke were missing from the scene, the former suspended for the fight, and the latter recuperating from his injuries. Both teams were determined to put the fighting aside last night and play ball. The Padres in particular had winning in mind, coming off a five-game losing streak and a disappointing first homestand.
Stults rose to the occasion admirably, showing that he would take no prisoners even within the first inning. He narrowly avoided giving the Dodgers a bases-loaded run spree, but struck out Andre Either to end that quickly. Then, he turned around and hit a three-run shot to left-center in the second inning, elevating the Padres to a 3-0 lead.
The lefty did not play a completely clean game (he truly only had squeaky clean innings in the fifth and sixth), and ultimately gave up nine hits throughout its course. But he used critical thinking and strategy to limit the Dodgers scoring and increase the Padres’ chances of winning. After letting RBI singles get away from him in the fourth and fifth innings, Stults pitched deliberate flyouts to avoid more damage than had already been done.
This kind of ballplaying is what should be expected of all great players, and is what the Padres need the most right now. The team needs players who know what to do, even when they might not have made the best play; they still know how to remedy the situation and play baseball critically. Stults showed last night that he can play well under pressure, and that he is one to watch this season, not just on the mound, but at bat as well.
With a win under their belt and the losing streak finally broken, it might just be the motivation the Padres need to start playing well again. Let’s just get through this stint at Dodgers Stadium without incident first.