Monday, Sept 26, 2011
Posted: 10:59 a.m.
After a tremendous 2010, much was expected out of the San Diego Padres' Mat Latos heading into this season.
He finally seems to be living up to his potential.
Latos looks to continue his impressive second half when he takes the mound against the visiting Chicago Cubs in the opener of a three-game set Monday night.
Latos (8-14, 3.60 ERA) finished 10th in the NL with a 2.92 ERA last year and held teams to a .217 average - the fifth-best mark in the league. A strained right shoulder was largely to blame for his slow start this season, but he's impressed since the All-Star break, yielding three runs or fewer in all but one of his 13 outings.
The hard-throwing right-hander was at his best during Tuesday's 2-1 victory at Colorado, striking out a season-high nine while coming within an out of his second career shutout.
"I wanted him to have it," manager Bud Black told the Padres' official website. "He's getting to the point where those things mean a lot. He's pitched good in the second half. He's done his job. He had the fastball, slider and curveball working. The breaking balls were good."
Latos, 1-2 with a 4.96 ERA in three career starts in this series, won't have to worry about facing Aramis Ramirez, who is 4 for 8 with two doubles against him. Ramirez has missed the previous four games with a strained right quad and isn't expected back until Tuesday at the earliest.
The Cubs, 2-2 during Ramirez's absence, wasted a solid effort from Randy Wells in Sunday's 3-2 defeat. Wells went all eight innings while Chicago (70-89) scored fewer than three runs for the seventh time in 12 games.
Starlin Castro went 1 for 4, extending his streak of reaching base to a career-high 37 consecutive games. The 21-year-old shortstop is essentially a lock to become the youngest player ever to lead the NL in hits - his 203 are 12 more than the Dodgers' Matt Kemp.
The Padres (69-90), meanwhile, failed to get much going against NL Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, falling 6-2. The top six hitters in the lineup mustered only three singles in 22 at-bats.
San Diego could have an easier time at the plate against Casey Coleman (3-8, 6.64), who takes the mound for Chicago. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 7.91 ERA over his last four road outings, during which opponents are batting .353 against him.
Coleman, though, is coming off his first win in nine starts, yielding one run and two hits over six innings of last Monday's 5-2 victory over Milwaukee.
"It's been a learning year for me, have a good outing and I would get too comfortable sometimes and the next outing three innings and you're out of the game," Coleman said. "So I was taking it inning by inning, out by out, and they played good defense behind me and that's the way it's got to be."
In his only career appearance in this series, Coleman gave up three runs and six hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 5-1 loss Aug. 18, 2010.
The Cubs, who took two of three from San Diego when the teams met in April, have won four of five at Petco while outscoring the Padres 14-6.
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