San Diego (85-66) at Los Angeles (73-79)

Fair Currently: Los Angeles, CA
Temp: 61° F
  • Game info: 10:10 pm EDT Thu Sep 23, 2010
  • TV: Ch4, PRIME
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Now that the San Diego Padres are back atop the NL West, getting their top pitcher back on track is their next priority.

Mat Latos(notes) looks to bounce back from the worst outing of his brief career and help the Padres win seven straight over the Los Angeles Dodgers for the first time in more than a decade in Thursday night’s finale.

With Wednesday’s 3-1 win at Dodger Stadium and San Francisco’s 2-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs, San Diego (85-66) moved one-half game ahead of the Giants in the division. The Padres also took a three-game lead over Colorado, which lost 8-4 to Arizona.

“With three teams out there, it’s going to be a nail-biter,” said San Diego closer Heath Bell(notes), who recorded his career-high 43rd save Wednesday.

Miguel Tejada(notes) hit his 300th career home run for the Padres, and is batting .378 with three homers and nine RBIs in his last nine games. He had hit .175 with three home runs and six RBIs in his previous 16.

Things weren’t looking good for Tejada and the Padres a little over two weeks ago, when their 6 1/2-game lead completely disappeared, but the team is feeling much better about their playoff chances now.

“I think we ran out of gas at the end of August and early September, but we went to the gas station to refuel and we got a full tank now,” Bell said. “We control our own destiny.”

Playing Los Angeles has certainly helped.

The Padres have outscored the Dodgers 24-4 in winning the last six meetings, and are 9-2 in the series since July 28. They haven’t won seven in a row over Los Angeles since April 18-July 1, 1999.

Latos (14-7, 2.84 ERA) shut down the Dodgers two weeks ago before his season took a turn for the worse. The right-hander limited Los Angeles to one run and four hits while striking out 10 and walking none in seven innings of a 2-1 victory on Sept. 7 to set a big league record of 15 straight starts of five or more innings with two or fewer runs allowed.

Latos has yielded 13 runs in two starts—matching the total in his previous 13 outings combined. In Friday’s 14-4 loss to St. Louis, Latos was pounded for career highs of eight runs and nine hits in a career-low 1 1-3 innings.

The 22-year-old, who has thrown 168 innings in his first full season in the majors, said fatigue is not a factor.

“I’m still throwing 97 (mph). My body feels fine. My arm feels fine,” said Latos, who is 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers this season.

While the Padres are seeking their first division title since 2006, Los Angeles (73-79) will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

The Dodgers are a major league-worst 6-17 since Aug. 28, and have plated two runs or fewer in 11 of their last 16 games.

“It’s tough to look good when you get shut down like this. There’s a great deal of frustration,” manager Joe Torre said

Scheduled starter Hiroki Kuroda(notes) (10-13, 3.36) has been a victim of Los Angeles’ paltry offense, going 3-6 in 12 starts since the All-Star break, despite a 2.71 ERA. The right-hander hasn’t pitched as well against the Padres, however, posting a 6.30 ERA in losing two starts this year.

Against the Rockies on Friday, Kuroda gave up five runs - three earned - and seven hits while striking out seven in six innings of a 7-5 loss.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Latos Cin vs. H. Kuroda NYY
14-10 Record 11-13
2.92 ERA 3.39
189 K 159
50 BB 48
1.08 WHIP 1.16

Scoreboard

Thursday, Sep 23