When Eric Stults entered Tuesday’s home opener in the fifth inning as a pinch-hitter for Clayton Richard, most of the 44,436 in Petco Park asked the same question.

What is Bud Black doing?

Answer: Saving Mark Kotsay.

Kotsay, the only left-handed position player on the Padres bench, drove home Cameron Maybin with a double off reliever Ronald Belisario in the bottom of the seventh to break a 3-3 tie and lead the Padres to an 9-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That was one of two, bench-saving tactical moves by Black that returned huge dividends later.

When Carlos Quentin was forced out of the game later in the seventh after being hit by a pitch on the right forearm – X-rays were negative -- Black employed another pitcher, Tyson Ross, as a pinch-runner to save Chris Denorfia’s bat for the next inning.

Denorfia delivered the first of three, two-out, run-scoring hits in the five-run Padres eighth that improved the Padres record in home openers at Petco Park top 7-3.

“You try to save your bench players for the seventh-inning on,” Black later said about the decision to use Stults as a pinch-hitter for Richard. “You only have four or five moves.”

“I wasn’t surprised when I wasn’t used in the fifth,” Kotsay said later. “You know me, I’m thinking along with Bud there. As it turned out, I came up in a situation where the matchup was positive for me.”

After scoring only eight runs in the last four games of their harrowing, season-opening, 1-5 journey to New York and Colorado, the Padres exploded for nine runs on 11 hits Tuesday.

Nick Hundley and Will Venable both hit solo homers and Venable equaled his career-high of four RBIs with a bases-loaded triple in the eighth.

Venable’s liner to the wall in right-center was sandwiched by run-scoring singles by Denorfia and Yonder Alonso as the Padres scored seven of their nine runs with two outs.

“That’s always a great sign,” said Black, whose team was 9-for-54 with runners in scoring position on the road trip and 6-for-29 in RISP situations and two outs. Tuesday they were 5-for-11 in RISP situations and 5-for-9 in two-out RISP situations.

“We think we’re capable of stringing hits together,” continued Black. “We took balls and hit strikes.”