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SF@SD: Stults earns eighth win with great start

SAN DIEGO -- A tough stretch of baseball in the weeks leading up to the All-Star break didn't leave the Padres gasping for air on the precipice of their four-day respite.

If anything, it looked as though the team's second-half reclamation project got rolling a few days early, as the Padres finished a difficult first half with a rare burst of offense and optimism in a 10-1 win on Sunday at Petco Park.

"The way we swung it today … I'd rather play tomorrow," said manager Bud Black, although he was probably only half-joking.

The Padres hit four home runs -- three in the first two innings -- to break out of an offensive funk.

Chris Denorfia, Nick Hundley, Will Venable and Carlos Quentin went deep, the Padres had 12 hits and starter Eric Stults allowed one run over six innings, ending a tough first half of the season on a high note.

Despite the victory, the Padres enter the break having lost 18 of their last 22 games. In many of those losses, they weren't able to pair good hitting with good pitching.

"We've got to combine those," Black said. "The rest of the year, that's our challenge. It's a pretty simple formula. We haven't been doing that."

A day after being no-hit by the Giants' Tim Lincecum, the Padres (42-54) made sure there would be no repeat, quickly jumping on Barry Zito in the first inning.

"Quickly" as in a leadoff single by Everth Cabrera and then -- after Cabrera was picked off -- a home run by Denorfia, which was just the beginning for a team that had struggled to score runs.

Put it this way: The Padres had eight runs by the fourth inning on Sunday. In their previous five games, four of which were losses, they scored nine total runs.

And the Padres didn't stop there, scoring twice in the second inning and then adding runs in the third to essentially put away the game.

In that third inning, the Padres sent 10 batters to the plate, chasing Zito. Quentin hit an RBI double to left field, and Jesus Guzman, Hundley and Venable also drove in runs.

"I thought guys were patient early and able to wait for the ball in the zone, and when it was, they hit it and took Zito out early," Quentin said.

Zito (4-7) was gone after walking Cabrera to start the third inning. He allowed four runs on four hits with two walks in two-plus innings.

"My concentration wasn't what it should have been. I threw too many pitches down the middle of the plate," Zito said. "The three home runs were an indication of that. When I'm at my best, I'm [going] pitch to pitch. Sometimes, when I scuffle, I'm getting out of the moment a little bit."

Stults (8-7) wobbled early, allowing a leadoff triple to Andres Torres and an RBI single to Marco Scutaro, but then he settled down.

"I felt a little rough as the game started. I was able to kind of find that tempo, and offensively, it was just a great game for us. Just to get that cushion definitely helped me," Stults said. "I was missing with some fastballs up, and [it's] not the way I wanted to start a game, with a leadoff triple. But I was able to limit that damage."

Stults allowed one run on five hits in six innings with two walks and five strikeouts. He finished the first half with a 3.40 ERA.

"I thought he threw the ball better his last 50 pitches than his first 50 pitches," Black said.

From here the Padres scatter to places far and near to get a midseason breather before they head to St. Louis to open the second half on Friday with the first game of a 10-game road trip. They'll do so with the intent of pitching and hitting better than they did in the first half.

"We've got a lot of work to do," said Hundley, who had three hits on Sunday. "We haven't played well on the road. We've got to continue to battle. We need every game. Every game we play is going to be important. It's time to go."

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