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Mat Latos flirts with no-hitter as Padres defeat Cubs

SAN DIEGO -- Mat Latos was perfect through four innings and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

Granted, it was against a Chicago Cubs lineup full of prospects in a matchup between teams that now each have 90 losses. Still, Latos had a strong finish to an uneven season as he pitched the San Diego Padres to a 2-0 win on Monday night.

Latos struck out nine and allowed only two hits in seven innings.

It was the third win in five September starts for Latos. Last year, he went winless in September as the Padres bumbled their way out of the NL West lead, missing the playoffs even though they finished with 90 wins.

"I was 0-5 in September last year, so this is huge," Latos said. "It seems like earlier in the season it was like a roller coaster ride: up, down, up, down, round and round. To come back strong after the All-Star break and put up some good numbers and try to help the ballclub as much as possible, it's big."

It was the 16th time in his last 17 starts that Latos (9-14) allowed three or fewer runs. He allowed only two hits before Chad Qualls threw a perfect eighth and Heath Bell a perfect ninth for his 43rd save in 48 chances.

It was the 10th shutout for the Padres and the 10th time the Cubs were shut out.

Latos was perfect through four innings before issuing his only walk, to Carlos Pena leading off the fifth. Pena stole second but was stranded after Latos retired the side. Latos didn't allow his first hit until Cubs starter Casey Coleman tripled into the gap in right-center with one out in the sixth.

"That's what happens when you hang a slider," Latos said. "It was just a bad pitch by me. If that pitch is in the dirt, he might swing over the top of it. Oh well. At least he didn't hit it over the fence. He didn't score, so no big deal."

Latos then got a groundout and fly out to strand Coleman.

Starlin Castro singled leading off the seventh and reached third with two outs before Latos got Steve Clevenger to foul out.

In his previous start, Latos threw a season-high 8 2/3 innings in a 2-1 win at Colorado.

"Those are really two good back-to-back games," manager Bud Black said. "I really like the way he finished the last starts or so. Very good, solid game tonight for Mat. It should give him great confidence going into next season. Last year was a whirlwind for him."

San Diego's Will Venable homered to straightaway center field leading off the sixth, his eighth. Jesus Guzman doubled with one out and scored on Cameron Maybin's double, which chased Coleman.

Coleman (3-9) allowed two runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings, struck out seven and walked two.

The Cubs started only three regulars. Of the other five position players who started, they had started only 93 combined games this season. There were three September callups, one August callup and Clevenger, the catcher, was making his big league debut.

"It's kid's day," Cubs manager Mike Quade laughed. "Latos is good and Bell is good and Qualls is good. That's the varsity. That's the kind of stuff you deal with up here. I wanted to see these guys against the varsity."

Game notes
Like the Padres, the Cubs have 90 losses. ... Castro singled off Latos leading off the seventh to reach base safely in a career-high 38 straight games. ... Chicago's Rafael Dolis made his big league debut when he relieved Coleman with two outs in the sixth. He got Chase Headley to ground out. ... The series continues Tuesday night with Cubs righty Matt Garza (9-10, 3.35) facing San Diego rookie righty Anthony Bass (2-0, 1.66). Garza will look to extend his winning streak to season-high four games. In his last start, he threw the eighth complete game of his career and his second this season. Bass will be making his third career start.