Mat Latos struck out a career-high 11 over six sharp innings to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
Drew Stubbs had three hits, including a two-run homer, and scored three times for the Reds. Todd Frazier added his first home run of the season as Cincinnati continued its strong play in series finales. The Reds are 8-1 on getaway days, including 5-0 on Sundays.
Latos (2-2) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first and then cruised. Pittsburgh never got a runner past second base over his final five innings. The right-hander gave up two hits while walking three to lower his ERA from 5.97 to 4.93. Three relievers upped Cincinnati's strikeout total to 17, tying a club record for a nine-inning game.
Charlie Morton (1-3) struggled to keep his sinker down and gave up five runs, four earned, on seven hits in six innings. He struck out five and walked two.
Latos was lit up for a career-worst 10 hits in his previous start against Houston, continuing his uneven spring. The 24-year-old, acquired in an offseason trade with San Diego, dropped his first two decisions before bouncing back to pitch seven shutout innings against San Francisco on April 24, only to slip against the light-hitting Astros.
Command has been an issue, and so has the lack of a strikeout pitch for one of baseball's top young arms.
Latos appeared headed for trouble early after being staked to a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Joey Votto. A hit batter and two walks loaded the bases with one out. Pittsburgh's Casey McGehee lined a shot to third that Frazier speared and Latos ended the threat by striking out Nate McLouth on a 94 mph fastball at the knees.
The Pirates never threatened again. Latos struck out four straight at one point, and his only mistakes over his final five innings were a pair of harmless singles.
Pittsburgh rode stellar pitching and defense to scratch out a taut 3-2 victory on Saturday but had issues in both departments less than 24 hours later. The Pirates committed a pair of errors — including a botched pickoff attempt by Morton that led to the game's first run — and left nine runners on base.
Morton couldn't get his trademark sinker to sink and the Reds took full advantage. Frazier drilled a shot into the bleachers in the second for his first home run since Sept. 2, and Stubbs pushed Cincinnati's lead to 4-0 in the fourth when his fly ball sailed just over the wall in right-center.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle asked for a review but the call was upheld.
Staked with a sizable lead, Latos worked quickly. Relying heavily on a fastball that consistently clocked in the mid-90s, Latos rolled along and capped his day by getting Clint Barmes to miss badly at a slider to end the sixth. The whiff gave Latos 11 on the day, one better than his previous career best of 10, which he did three times.
NOTES: Pittsburgh All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen was given the day off. McCutchen is battling the flu and Hurdle said: "He's not in a good place physically." ... The Reds begin a three-game series in Milwaukee on Monday. Bronson Arroyo (1-1, 3.03 ERA) starts against Yovani Gallardo (1-3, 5.79). Pittsburgh is off Monday and continues a nine-game homestand Tuesday against Washington. A.J. Burnett (1-2, 8.04 ERA) starts for the Pirates against Edwin Jackson (1-1, 3.69). ... Cincinnati infielder Miguel Cairo went 0 for 4 in a rehab appearance with Class-A Dayton on Saturday. His return from a strained left hamstring is still uncertain.