In less than two weeks, the San Diego Padres' lead in the NL West has gone from commanding to tenuous. A healthy Mat Latos could help them begin to create some breathing room.
Fresh off their first win in 11 games, the Padres hope Latos can help them carry that momentum into a meeting with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.San Diego (77-59) appeared to be cruising to a division title as recently as Aug. 25, when it held a 6 1/2-game lead on second-place San Francisco. That advantage has shrunk to one game on the Giants and 4 1/2 on Colorado thanks to the Padres' 10-game losing streak, which came to an end with Monday's 4-2 win in the opener of this three-game set."You would never have thought that winning one game would be so important," said reliever Mike Adams, who won in relief Monday. "That's the biggest win that we've had maybe all year. I'm kind of lost for words on it. The past 10 days, nothing went our way. We couldn't catch a break. To come out tonight and get that win out of the way, hopefully that changes the tide a little bit and we'll get on a little roll now."Any momentum could provide a boost for San Diego heading into the opener of a key four-game series at home against the Giants on Thursday before visiting Colorado for three contests. The Padres conclude the regular season with three games at San Francisco next month.Before that, Latos (13-5, 2.25 ERA) will try to help the Padres pad their division lead after being scratched from his scheduled start Monday due to a stomach flu."It didn't make sense for me to pitch a guy who didn't sleep, who was throwing up all night, and when he came in looked white as a sheet," manager Bud Black said.Latos is 2-0 with a 1.41 ERA in five starts, but a lack of offense has seen his last two result in defeats for San Diego. The right-hander has received three total runs of support in that span while posting a 1.38 ERA.That trend has continued in three career starts against the Dodgers. Latos has compiled a 3.21 ERA in those games but has been backed by five total runs while going 0-2.Offensive struggles have been a major problem for the Padres in the last 11 games. They have a .218 average and been outscored 57-27 in that stretch.With Latos on the mound, they may not need to create much offense against Clayton Kershaw (11-9, 3.01). However, the left-hander has beaten San Diego twice this season behind a 1.26 ERA while collecting 14 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings.He has a 2.20 ERA over his last five starts overall, but just a 1-2 record to show for it due mainly to an average of 3.6 runs of support -- none in his last two outings.Kershaw was impressive again Wednesday, yielding two runs and fanning 11 in six innings of a 5-1 loss to Philadelphia.The Dodgers (69-69) have lost three in a row and seven of nine as they continue to fade in the playoff race."We would have liked to take advantage of the fact they had lost 10 in a row," manager Joe Torre said.