Latos Wins Pitching Duel

Reds Swapped Four to get Latos from Padres in 2012

The Reds won a 1-0 game last night to take their series from the Cubs and remain on pace with the Cardinals for the NL Central Lead. Latos is staring the season with a much better April than he's had in the past and Cincinnati is giving indications they will remain in the hunt for a another division crown despite being hit hard with early injuries.

The Cincinnati Reds took their home series against the Cubs by winning the rubber game last night by a score of 1-0. Mat Latos and Jeff Samardzija were locked in a pitching duel that went scoreless until Todd Frazier hit a towering home run in the seventh inning to provide the game's only run. Latos left the game after allowing a hit and walk to start the eighth. Jonathan Broxton and stopped the threat by retiring all three batters faced. The inning was ended by a nice play by Zach Cozart on a groundball to preserve the lead. Latos finished with seven shutout innings allowing only four hits and a walk and picked up his first win of the year. Aroldis Chapman threw a scoreless ninth for his fourth save. Offensively Shin-soo Choo had a couple of singles and kept his average close to .400. Frazier's shot was his sixth homer of the season and he also reached with a walk. Xavier Paul was the only other Red to reach safely twice with two walks. The victory kept the Reds a half game behind St. Louis for the division lead.

The outing lowered Latos's ERA down to 2.16. That's a welcomed change for Reds fans who saw him have a solid season last year despite putting up an ernie around six over April. Over his career he's sitting close to five over the first month of the season compared to 3.08 over 93 appearances from May through October. Of course Latos finished 2012 as one of the workhorses in the Cincinnati rotation, throwing over 200 innings and going 14-4/3.48 while striking out eight per nine innings and keeping a K/BB ratio close to three. That ERA matched his previous season despite moving his home venue from San Diego's PetCo Park to Great American Ball Park.

While staff ace Johnny Cueto is on the DL the Reds will need Latos to pitch like, well, Mat Latos. He was solid down the stretch even turning in a nice emergency relief effort to help the Reds win their first playoff game after Cueto left in the first inning with a back ailment. Thus far rookie Tony Cingrani has turned in two solid starts in Cueto's absence and the Reds rotation appears that they will keep on rolling like they did all of last season.

Latos made some comments that he felt a lot of pressure early last season after he debuted for Cincinnati who traded three first round draft choices and their 2011 opening day starter to get him. His performance since should give him good reason to believe that both fans and management is happy to have him donning a Reds uniform, giving them a second "ace-quality" starter atop the best rotation that they've had in a long time. Even though he's in his fifth MLB season he's still only 25 years old and has anotherarbitration before he's eligible for free agency after next season. Cincinnati has been successful at avoiding arbitration with all their players since winning a case in 2004.

Last year the strength of the Reds 97-win campaign was their pitching staff. Thus far this season they have the fourth lowest ERA in the NL, close behind division foes St. Louis and Pittsburgh while their rotation has combined for 2.99. At the plate they have the highest on-base percentage in the NL with new leadoff hitter Choo and Joey Votto holding the top two individual spots and cleanup hitter Brandon Phillips one RBI off the NL lead. Overall they are second in the NL in runs scored behind only Colorado who is averaging 0.8 more runs per game at Coors Field than they are plating on the road.

Their bullpen provided some bumps in the road after losing top lefty Sean Marshall to injury, but Afredo Simon, J.J. Hoover, and Logan Ondrusek had combined for twelve appearances with only one earned run since April 13. Chapman has remained solid closing, allowing only one run in eleven outings. Their defense has allowed six unearned runs (0.27/game) which is the fifth lowest rate in the NL and their off/def run differential of 32 is second only to Atlanta.

Success of last year left Reds fan excited about this year's campaign. In the first month they've been performing at a post-season caliber despite considerable injuries. Baseball has a long season but thus far the Reds are giving indications that they will again be in the hunt in the end.

News from the Farm:

Louisville fell behind by seven after three innings as visiting Gwinnett cruised to a 7-3 win over the Bats. Leadoff hitter Emmanuel Burris reached safely three times with a couple of hits and a walk while Neftali Soto got on twice with a hit and a walk. Nevin Ashley had a couple of RBI including one in the ninth before a two-run rally was ended with bases loaded. Marshall got another rehab start and allowed two hits without a run in the first inning. Daniel Corcino entered in the second and didn't last much longer while giving up seven before he was lifted in the fourth. The Bats leaned heavily on their bullpen that had five relievers combine for five-plus scoreless innings.

Pensacola broke a tie with a five-run seventh inning and held on for an 8-4 win at Jackson. Theo Bowe led the Wahoo offense with a couple of doubles and a walk. Ryan LaMarre and Bryson Smith each reached safely via a single and walk. All three reached safely in the game-winning rally which included a two-run triple by Donald Lutz. Chad Rogers allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks in seven innings to get the win. His ERA is now under two.

Bakersfield lost a 13-9 slugfest at High Desert to drop to 5-15 on the season. Things started off well for the Blaze when they took a three-run lead in the top of the first inning off back-to-back home runs by Marquez Smith and Yorman Rodriguez. Later they added another three in the fourth to regain the lead, but the Mavericks struck for seven in the bottom of the frame and held on for the win. Smith and Ryan Wright each had three hits and two RBI. Rodriguez added a couple of hits and drove in two. Juan Silverio and also contributed three hits while Yovan Gonzalez reached safely via a hit and a walk. Jake Johnson was charged with the first eight runs and took the loss after tossing three innings. El'Hajj Muhammad, Brian Pearl, and Kyle McMyne finished the game by throwing one scoreless frame each.

Dayton lost at Lansing in a low-scoring 3-1 game. Zachary Vincej got one of three Dragon hits, walked once, and reached on an error when he scored their only run in the first. Jeff Gelalich got on base twice with walks and Joe Hudson reached with a hit and walk. Drew Cisco took the loss after turning in a quality start, allowing three on six hits without a walk while striking out five in seven innings.

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