CLEVELAND (AP) — Pitching for the San Diego Padres isn’t easy these days.
Eric Stults made that painful discovery in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians. Stults’ only major mistake came on Jason Kipnis’ two-run homer in the sixth, while the Padres’ offense struggled again in a 2-0 loss.
The Padres have lost six of seven and scored only 18 runs in eight games.
“I can only control what I can control and that’s pitching,” Stults said. “I can’t do anything about the hitting side of things, so I mean I don’t think that really changes my approach. I still want to attack the zone and get guys out. So to me, it’s not an issue because my job is to pitch.”
Stults (0-2) took a shutout into the sixth, but third baseman Alexi Amarista’s throwing error was followed by Kipnis’ first home run of the season.
San Diego’s defense, which committed two costly errors in Tuesday’s night’s 8-6 loss, let Stults down in the sixth. Amarista fielded Nick Swisher’s ground ball, but his throw was in the dirt, skipped past first baseman Yonder Alonso and bounced into the camera bay for a two-base error.
Kipnis, who signed a six-year, $52.5 million contract extension last week, hit the first pitch to right-center, where Venable barely missed a leaping grab.
Asked if the error impacted him, Stults said, “Maybe a little. I felt like I had a pretty good tempo, good delivery out of the windup going. I mean, you’ve still gotta execute pitches. I left a pitch up and Kipnis did what good hitters do.”
Stults was pleased with the way he threw the ball despite of the loss. He kept the Indians off balance by mixing his pitches and using a changeup in the range of 75 mph at times. The left-hander allowed two runs — one earned — in 5 2-3 innings.
“The key was just to execute the game plan and try to get ground balls,” he said. “For the most part I was able to do that other than really just the one pitch to Kipnis that he kind of got up in the air and carried out of here.”
Zach McAllister (1-0) pitched 7 2-3 scoreless innings. He allowed five hits, struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter.
Cody Allen recorded the final out in the eighth, and John Axford pitched the ninth for his fourth save.
McAllister retired the first two hitters in the eighth, but was pulled after giving up singles to Amarista and Everth Cabrera. Allen got out of the jam by striking out Seth Smith.
Yonder Alonso singled to start the ninth and Jedd Gyorko drew a one-out walk. The runners moved to second and third, but Will Venable struck out and Xavier Nady lined out to right.
McAllister worked around doubles in the first, third and fifth.
The error and homer seemed to unnerve Stults, who walked Carlos Santana and gave up a double to Ryan Raburn to put runners on second and third. Stults then struck out Michael Brantley on a 3-2 pitch. Nick Vincent relieved and struck out Yan Gomes.
The Padres couldn’t take advantage of one-out doubles in the first and third. Smith was stranded at second in the opening inning when Alonso flied out and Yasmani Grandal struck out. Amarista reached second in the third, but Cabrera struck out and Smith grounded out.
Nick Hundley doubled with two down in the fifth, but Amarista flied out.
NOTES: Nady’s home run in the ninth inning Tuesday was his first hit since Sept. 30, 1012 when he homered for San Francisco against the Padres. Nady spent all of last season in the minors. … Stults recorded a career-high 11 wins last season and was 3-0 in his final four starts. … The Padres open a 10-game homestand Friday against Detroit. … Cleveland begins a four-game series in Chicago on Thursday night. … The Indians optioned RHP Vinnie Pestano to Triple-A Columbus before the first game. Pestano allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning Tuesday and goes to the minors with a 13.50 ERA.