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SD@ATL: Stults stymies the Braves over 7 2/3 innings

ATLANTA -- Offering an assortment of pitches that ranged from a big, looping curveball that was all of 66 mph to an 88-mph fastball with movement, Padres pitcher Eric Stults essentially kept the Braves guessing on Monday.

So good was Stults that he even managed to keep one of his own infielders guessing, especially whenever he threw that slow breaking ball toward the plate.

"When he throws it, you have to get ready at your position and then you have to get ready again," said Logan Forsythe, who made his first start at shortstop.

Whatever it was, it worked.

Stults took a three-hit shutout into the eighth inning before settling for his second victory in as many starts as the Padres defeated the Braves, 4-1, before a crowd of 18,250 at Turner Field.

While Stults (3-2) wasn't able to match the procession of shutouts the Padres have enjoyed in the past week -- first it was Clayton Richard against the Cubs and then, most recently, Jason Marquis against the Pirates -- he came awfully close.

Stults got 10 fly-ball outs, including a nice diving catch in center field by Cameron Maybin, and pitched his way out of potentially-sticky situations in the fourth and sixth innings by keeping the Braves (66-49) guessing.

"He frustrated us. He got us out of our normal game plan of seeing pitches and working the count a little bit and go deep in the count," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "He really, really was frustrating to hit off of. ... We hit the ball hard a couple times, but nevertheless, we got into the eighth inning and we weren't our normal selves."

This was Stults' plan all along in a game that started 25 minutes late due to rain. In fact, the coolish temperature and heavy air cut down a few fly balls that were well-struck.

But not the one hit by Padres third baseman Chase Headley in the seventh inning, a long home run to center field, the 19th of the season for Headley who had just four long balls last season. Headley, who earlier in the day was named the National League Player of the Week, has seven home runs in August.

"He's in a zone," Forsythe said of Headley. "He's already entered it. It's fun to watch."

The Headley home run essentially was the icing to a 12-hit performance, as the Padres chased Atlanta starting pitcher Mike Minor (6-9) after six innings.

Chris Denorfia, who entered the game with a .305 career average against left-handed pitchers, had a double and triple and scored twice against the left-handed Minor. Yonder Alonso added three hits for the Padres (52-65), who are 3-1 on their current seven-game road trip.

The Padres took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a sacrifice fly by Maybin. They scored one run in the fifth inning on a Headley RBI single. One inning later, Alonso gave the Padres a 3-0 lead with a single through a drawn-in infield.

"We're slowly improving on a number of things, offensively," said Padres manager Bud Black.

As for Stults, he got a lot of mileage out of his big curveball and slider. He allowed five hits -- two in the eighth inning -- with no walks and three strikeouts. He allowed a two-out triple to Martin Prado in the eighth, the only run that he allowed.

"They were swinging early in the count," said Stults, who got 23 outs on 101 pitches.

Black went to his bullpen for Luke Gregerson, who struck out Jason Heyward on a slider with a runner on to end the inning. In the ninth inning, the Padres turned to Dale Thayer to close out the Braves, the first chance he's had to do so since Huston Street went on the disabled list Saturday with a strained left calf.

Thayer, who saved five games when Street was on the disabled list earlier in the season, worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to close out the win.

But this one was more about Stults, who was claimed off waivers from the White Sox on May 17. After missing 41 games with a strained left lat muscle, he's 2-0 and has allowed one run in his last 13 innings.

"Sometimes, you look up on the radar and see 69 and 78 and 86 and you think: 'Man, this guy doesn't have much.' But when you're locating and changing speeds and staying ahead of hitters, it's a pretty good formula for being effective that night and he was certainly that," said Braves third baseman Chipper Jones.

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