The last two starters for the Cincinnati Reds simply haven't been able to get the job done.
Mat Latos has gone the distance in his last two starts -- both wins -- and will try to lift the Reds' spirits when he puts his unbeaten streak on the line tonight in the opener of a four-game series against his former San Diego Padres teammates at Petco Park.
Latos was traded from the Padres to Cincinnati in the offseason and began his first stint with the Reds 0-2 in three starts. Something has clicked since then as evidenced by his 7-0 mark and 3.72 earned run average in the past 13 starts. Latos, who won 27 games in three years with the Padres, struck out 13 batters and allowed one run in a 3-1 win over Milwaukee on June 25. Five days later he ate up nine more innings in a 2-1 win at San Francisco, as he held the Giants to a run and two hits with seven strikeouts and no walks.
The right-hander, who became the first Reds pitcher to post consecutive complete games since Aaron Harang in September 2006, is 7-2 with a 4.42 ERA in 16 starts this season and is 2-1 in seven road assignments. The last Reds pitcher to throw three straight complete games was Jose Rijo in September 1990. No Reds pitcher has enjoyed a winning streak longer than seven games since Danny Graves was victorious in his first eight decisions back in 2000.
Cincinnati has lost back-to-back games no thanks to Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, and suffered a 4-1 loss at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday. Leake actually pitched well in defeat and yielded three runs -- two earned -- in seven innings.
"I helped them early. I left the balls over the middle," Leake said after spotting the Dodgers a 3-0 lead after one frame. "I located the ball well after the first inning."
Devin Mesoraco homered in Cincinnati's three-hit attack, while Joey Votto and Zack Cozart had the other hits. The Reds have lost five of eight games and are one game behind Pittsburgh for the NL Central lead. They are also 3-4 on an 11-game road trip out in California.
Meanwhile, the Padres are coming off their first ever three-game sweep at Arizona and won for the fifth straight time with Wednesday's 8-6 win.
Yasmani Grandal homered, Chris Denorfia went 4-for-5 with three runs scored and Yonder Alonso added two hits and two RBI for San Diego, which is 8-3 in the past 11 games and went 7-3 on a 10-game road trip. Grandal has four home runs in his last five games.
"If you would have told me I was going to hit four home runs in five games I would say, 'No way,'" Grandal said on the club's website. "I am definitely surprising myself. It's unexplainable."
Huston Street retired all three batters he saw in the ninth for his 13th save of the season, while Luke Gregerson struck out the final two batters in the seventh to pick up the win. Jason Marquis had a rough start for the Friars and was reached for four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Former Reds starter and current Padres hurler Edinson Volquez gets the nod Thursday and was a part of the deal that shipped Latos to Cincinnati. Volquez has never faced the Reds and looks to continue his recent success against them tonight. He has won three of four starts and is coming off Saturday's 8-4 victory at Colorado in which he gave up two runs -- one earned -- in six innings. The effort lifted his mark to 5-7 in 17 starts with a 3.68 ERA.
Volquez, a right-hander, is 2-4 in 10 outings at Petco Park this season. He has lasted at least five innings in each of those appearances.
San Diego and Cincinnati are meeting for the first time since the Reds won four of six matchups a season ago.