Latos' gem, Venable's bat, glove lift Padres to win

SAN DIEGO -- Mat Latos and the San Diego Padres couldn't be any happier with the start of the rookie's career.

Latos threw seven strong innings to win his third straight start and the Padres beat the Atlanta Braves 4-2 on Monday night.

Latos (3-1) continued his impressive ways in only his fourth major league start.

"I'm here and I don't want to go anywhere," Latos said. "I don't want to get sent back down. Why not do anything and everything in my power to stay here?"

The 21-year-old Latos showed elements of his pitching he had not previously shown in his other starts. The right-hander displayed the ability to mix his secondary pitches to go along with his mid- to upper-90 mph fastball.

"I liked the way he pitched out of a jam in the first inning and held them to one run," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "He mixed his pitches better than in his other two wins."

Latos got a big lift from fellow rookie Will Venable, who drove in the go-ahead run and made a diving catch to end the seventh inning and save at least one run.

Venable had three hits and put the Padres ahead 3-2 in the third with a single that scored David Eckstein, who led off with a triple.

"It's nice to know that I will be getting some at-bats," said Venable, who has begun to play regularly in right field. "It allows you to get your timing down, and right now, I am in a good groove."

In his last five games, Venable is 10 for 21 (.476) with three home runs and nine RBIs.

Latos settled down after allowing a run in each of the first two innings and he retired 15 of 16 batters in one stretch. Latos gave up Brian McCann's sacrifice fly in the first and a solo homer to Adam LaRoche in the second. He allowed two runs and six hits in his third solid start since coming up from Double-A San Antonio on July 18.

"[Latos] has three solid pitches," Atlanta's Matt Diaz said. "He's always going to pitch off that fastball. As long as he stays healthy, he's just going to get better and better."

In his last outing, Latos gave up one run over seven innings in a 7-1 win at Cincinnati on Wednesday.

"I wouldn't change a thing, what's happened so far," Latos said. "I wouldn't do anything different."

Heath Bell pitched a perfect ninth for his 27th save in 28 chances as San Diego won for the sixth time in seven games.

The Braves have lost seven of 11.

All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was rested by Padres manager Bud Black but kept his major league-best consecutive games streak alive at 314 when he entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning.

Venable made his diving catch on a sinking line drive by pinch-hitter Greg Norton in the seventh inning with two outs and runners on first and third.

"If that ball falls in, for sure we're tied and maybe we go ahead," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Latos received another big defensive play in the first when Garret Anderson lifted a shallow ball to right field with runners on first and third and one out. Second baseman Eckstein made the catch and easily threw out Martin Prado, who tried to score after tagging up at third base.

LaRoche's home run was his 13th this season and first since being traded from Boston to Atlanta on Friday.

Padres rookie Kyle Blanks hit a solo homer in the second off Kenshin Kawakami (5-9) to tie the game at 2-all. It was his sixth homer in 14 games after going without one in the first 21 games of his major league career after being recalled from Triple-A Portland on June 19.

Kawakami allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings as he lost for the third time in four starts.

Game notes
Latos has limited hitters to a .190 average. ... Braves SS Yunel Escobar (bruised right wrist) played for the first time in four games since he left Thursday's game after being hit by a pitch against Florida. He went 1 for 4.