SAN ANTONIO -- The cozy confines of the Alamodome certainly aided the Padres' offense on Friday night against the Rangers, although it wasn't enough to ensure a victory in the first professional baseball game in a facility better known for bowl games and bull riding.
Will Venable, Jedd Gyorko and Jonathan Galvez reached the Alamodome seats, but the Rangers scored big in the middle innings, edging the Padres, 5-4, in front of a largely partisan Rangers crowd.
San Diego starting pitcher Eric Stults, in his final tuneup before a start Wednesday against the Mets at Citi Field, cruised early, facing 10 hitters over the first three innings. He allowed two runs in the fourth inning before leaving. All told, he allowed one earned run on three hits with three strikeouts.
Stults might have been the biggest winner of the night, not so much for his performance but how he went about it -- locating his fastball, especially in on right-handed batters.
"I thought his fastball location was good, especially into righties," said Padres manager Bud Black. "He's probably thrown the most pitches of any of our starters [this spring]. He's in a good spot."
The Padres have already stretched Stults out this spring -- he's thrown six innings twice in the last two weeks -- so they had him pitch an abbreviated start Friday, though it was still important nonetheless.
"I felt good. The key for me was being able to throw a lot of pitches for strikes," Stults said. "Over the last few starts, I've been consistent doing that and, overall, I've been pleased.
"And that [pitching inside on righties] is part of the way I need to pitch. I've got to keep them honest in."
Black said before the game that he wanted to get several of his bullpen regulars work Friday, noting they likely wouldn't pitch Saturday and with the team off Sunday, they would get two days of additional rest.
After Stults left, Dale Thayer came into the game in the fifth inning and promptly allowed the first three hitters to reach base. But just as quickly as Thayer worked himself into trouble, he got out of it. First, he struck out Lance Berkman looking, and then got Adrian Beltre on a fly ball to right. Finally, Thayer struck out Nelson Cruz to end the inning.
The next Padres reliever -- closer Huston Street -- wasn't as fortunate. He allowed four hits to open the sixth inning, including an RBI double to Mitch Moreland and an RBI infield single to Leonys Martin in a three-run inning before being relieved by Brad Brach, who got the last two innings.
Luke Gregerson and Anthony Bass each pitched scoreless innings.
"Overall, our pitching was OK," Black said. "A little bit of that was due to infield toppers … there might have been five balls that went [a combined] 50 feet."
The Padres started fast Friday as Venable, the second batter of the game, hit a home run to deep right-center field, some 420 feet from home plate.
"That ball was crushed," Black said. "That's out of Petco Park."
Gyorko, starting at third base, hit a two-run home run to right-center field in the fourth inning off Texas pitcher Alexi Ogando. That ball wasn't nearly struck as well. Finally, Galvez, who will begin the season at Triple-A Tucson, hit a solo home run off Joe Nathan in the ninth inning to make it a one-run game.
Three home runs, none by the Rangers and their brawny lineup, and not a single home run over the wall in right field, where it's 285 feet down the line with a 16-foot high fence.
Up next: The Padres will turn to right-hander Jason Marquis for an 11:05 a.m. PT start on Saturday against the Rangers at the Alamodome. Marquis, the fourth starter in the Padres' rotation, will likely go in upwards of five innings. This will be his last appearance before facing the Rockies on Friday at Coors Field.