In a pinch, when starting pitcher Robbie Erlin landed on the disabled list Thursday, the Padres turned to the longest tenured player in the organization, Stauffer, for a spot start. The Padres asked him to throw 60 or so pitches, to do what he could to save a taxed bullpen.
Instead, Stauffer gave the Padres much more than that, which, when coupled with scoring a season-high for runs, turned this one into a rare laugher as the Padres defeated the Cubs, 11-1, in front of a crowd of 26,489 at Petco Park.
Stauffer (2-0) tossed five scoreless innings, allowing two hits, walking one and striking out five. He hung in for 77 pitches before departing after a successful return to the rotation for the first time since May 2012.
"We felt good about Stauff. We didn't know he'd be able to give us five. He has been out there before. We thought he could handle that," said Padres manager Bud Black. "Giving us five was great. We used our 'pen a little bit last night. We used it tonight.
"We thought it was going to be a short start, so five [innings] was outstanding."
So was an offense that jumped on Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson (3-4) from the start, scoring four runs in the first inning, followed by three more in the second inning.
"We haven't had many of those," Black said of the high-scoring games. "When that happens, there's a different feeling in the dugout, there's a different vibe. Guys want to get to the bat track, they want to start hacking, they want to get involved. And that kind of happened."
The first three batters of the game reached base with Seth Smith knocking in two runs on a single into center field. Two batters later, Yonder Alonso hit a two-run home run over the fence in center field. In the second inning, Yasmani Grandal hit a solo home run and Chase Headley had a two-run double.
"We know he's a guy that will attack the zone," Alonso said of Jackson. "His last start was 10 strikeouts or something like that. He's been around and had a lot of success. He's a power guy. He's got a lot of pitches. He can get you out with anything. For me it was just making sure I hit the ball and hopefully it lands somewhere."
All told, Jackson allowed eight runs on nine hits with two walks and three strikeouts over four innings.
"I didn't give us a chance. Today was a terrible job of making adjustments all the way around, it doesn't matter how they [Padres] are hitting, this is the big leagues. I can't pitch like that," Jackson said.
On the other side, Stauffer (2-0) battled himself a bit early in the game, unable to harness his curveball for strikes. He found his rhythm soon thereafter, as he needed eight pitches to get out of the third inning and 12 pitches in the fourth.
"I felt good out there. It was nice to get through that first inning," Stauffer said. "I was just trying to keep my pitch-count down and keep the bullpen fresh."
The last time Stauffer made a start was in May 2012 against the Nationals, which would end up being his lone appearance of the season. He landed on the disabled list shortly thereafter with an elbow sprain that eventually led him to surgery that September to repair the flexor tendon in the elbow.
Healthy again in 2013, Stauffer pitched exclusively out of the bullpen, providing dependability for Black, giving the team a 3.22 ERA in 366 2/3 innings since 2010, with 80 of his 120 appearances in that stretch coming out of the bullpen.
But Stauffer's preference all along, now, and previously in a career that began in 2003 when the Padres drafted him fourth overall out of the University of Richmond, has always been to start.
"Growing up, in high school, college and the Minor Leagues, I started," he said. "I feel that I can start at this level. I don't mind the bullpen, either. I want to pitch in the Major Leagues.
Does he think Friday's start will buy him another start moving forward?
"We'll play it by ear. A lot of stuff can happen," he said.