Now with less than a week left in the season and a playoff berth on the line, Latos is struggling.
Following a slight adjustment to his delivery, Latos hopes to avoid losing his fourth straight start when he takes the ball for the Padres on Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs.
San Diego (87-69) dropped a game behind idle San Francisco in the NL West and one-half game back of Atlanta in the wild-card standings with a 1-0 loss to the Cubs (71-85) in Monday’s opener.
“Nobody likes to lose, whether it’s April or September,” manager Bud Black said.
After three more games against the Cubs, the Padres conclude the season with three weekend games in San Francisco.
Latos (14-8, 2.91 ERA) has been instrumental to the Padres’ being in this position and was looking like a strong candidate to take the ball in a possible playoff opener a few weeks ago, but he has been shaky lately.
The 22-year-old right-hander has a 13.94 ERA in losing his last three starts after going 13-2 with a 1.58 ERA in his previous 21. This includes a stretch when he set a big league record of 15 straight starts of five or more innings with two or fewer runs allowed. One of those outings came at Wrigley Field on Aug. 19, when Latos yielded two runs while striking out 10 in seven innings of a 5-3 win.
After allowing three runs and six hits in five innings in Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the Dodgers, he worked with pitching coach Darren Balsley on his delivery during a bullpen session.
“He wasn’t staying behind his fastball, so his four-seamer was cutting a little bit and he was getting it up in the zone,” Balsley told the Padres’ official website. “He was throwing across his body quite a bit, and his hips were sliding the wrong way. We just made an adjustment of getting on a better line to home plate and getting behind his fastball, and it’s seemed to work.”
San Diego hopes it works because time is running out. Latos’ next start will likely be Sunday against the Giants in the regular-season finale.
The Padres also need to get their offense in gear.
They’ve combined for 10 hits and two runs in losing their last two games, and have scored four runs or fewer in each of their last six.
Ryan Ludwick(notes) is 2 for 19 with seven strikeouts in his last six contests, but is a career .444 hitter with a homer and three doubles in 27 at-bats against Ryan Dempster(notes) (14-11, 3.87), Chicago’s scheduled starter.
Dempster was tagged for nine runs and seven hits while hitting two batters in a season-low 1 2-3 innings in Thursday’s 13-0 loss to San Francisco. It was the most runs the 13-year-veteran allowed since 2003.
“You certainly have to put this one behind you,” Dempster said. “This is a turn-the-page game for me.”
Dempster’s had a couple of ugly outings like this lately, but when he hasn’t been knocked around recently, the right hander has pitched brilliantly. In his last six outings, Dempster has a 0.00 ERA in winning three but an 18.32 ERA in losing the others.
Dempster will make his first start of the year against the Padres after going 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two outings last season.