Eric Stults finally pitched with a lead. He remembered just what to do with it, too.

The crafty left-hander worked his way through six strong innings, limiting the Giants to three hits, only one of which hurt – Michael Morse’s fifth-inning homer – in an otherwise spotless outing that propelled the Padres to a 3-1 win Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 43,405 Petco Park.

Out the last three games with a mild right biceps strain, Chase Headley singled in four at-bats in his return to the lineup, Yonder Alonso, Everth Cabrera and Chris Denorfia each drove in runs and the bullpen fired three shutout innings at San Francisco, the last a perfect ninth from Joaquin Benoit as the Padres moved to 9-9 after opening the season with six losses in their first eight games.

Still early? Of course, but at least that start – and that talk – is behind the Padres at the moment.

“The satisfaction is that we’re pitching well and we’re playing good defense and our hitting is going to pick up – our hitting is picking up,” Alonso said. “It’s such a long season. We were 2-6, but if we were 6-2 we would have answered questions the same way. We just have to keep moving forward.

“We have to play good defense. We have to play small ball. We were able to do that tonight.”

Good defense? Check, on Alex Amarista’s full-extension diving catch in center in the first inning and again on Yasmani Grandal alertly starting a 2-6-3 double play when Tim Hudson’s bunt attempt stalled in front of the plate in the third.

Small ball? Check, on Stults sacrificing a runner over in the fifth before Cabrera’s run-scoring triple and again on Denorfia’s suicide squeeze for a 3-1 lead in the eighth.