Thursday, July 8, 2010

Late to the Latos bandwagon

Chances are, you didn't know much about Mat Latos before tonight. Perhaps you'd never even heard of the Padres right-hander, whose first name is missing a "T" and whose last name isn't pronounced the way you think. (It rhymes with "hate" not "hat".)

Well, this just in: Latos deserves your attention, because he's one of baseball's best pitchers, even if no one outside of San Diego realizes it.

After thoroughly dissecting the Nationals' lineup during seven shutout innings tonight in the Padres' 7-1 victory, Latos finds himself with a 10-4 record and a 2.45 ERA.

Oh yeah, and he's only 22 years old.

And did we mention he was born in Alexandria?

Yes, that was Northern Virginia's own Mat Latos dismantling the Nats tonight on South Capitol Street. OK, so he moved to Florida when he was a kid. But he still maintains close ties to the region. His parents have since moved to the Fredericksburg area, and his aunt, uncle and cousin live near Woodbridge.

Which may explain why on an otherwise uneventful night of baseball played in front of a paid crowd of 17,364, a sizable contingent of fans in Padres gear was cheering Latos' every move. Turns out he left 26 tickets for friends and family.

"It's always nice to have fans wherever you're at," he said. "It gives you a little bit more confidence knowing there are people here who are supporting you."

Latos often vacations in Virginia during the offseason, spending enough time around here that he considers it something of a second home.

"It doesn't necessarily feel like home," he said. "But it's close enough."

The way Latos pitched tonight, Nationals Park probably felt like Petco Park (with a bit of humidity thrown into the mix). He never gave the Nats a chance, scattering two hits and two walks over his first six innings before finally loading the bases in the seventh (and still pitching his way out of the jam without allowing a run).

He deftly mixed a 95 mph fastball with a sharp-breaking curveball that had Nationals batters baffled from start to finish.

"He's got a really good curveball, but you've got to have so much respect for the fastball," Jim Riggleman said. "He's a power pitcher with a classic downward breaking ball and good, hard fastball."

Oh yeah, Latos also clubbed the first home run of his career, tagging a first-pitch fastball from Luis Atilano into the left-field bleachers in the fourth inning.

Atilano, who labored throughout his 5 1/3 innings of work, could only sigh about that titanic clout from the opposing hurler.

"The pitcher," he said, shaking his head in disbelief. "Things happen."

The Nationals might have been able to overcome Atilano's struggles had they simply been able to continue their recent hot streak at the plate. After clawing and scratching to push across one or two runs for the better part of the last three weeks, the Nats had scored 24 runs in their last four games and made a couple of quality San Diego starters (Clayton Richard and Jon Garland) look meek.

Not so much tonight against the budding ace of the Padres' staff.

"They're a real good-hitting ballclub," Latos said, throwing compliments at the Nationals left and right. "We talked about it before the game: If you make mistakes, they're going to hit it. They've got Zimmerman, who should have been an All-Star. Adam Dunn, who just had a three-homer night. Willingham's having a great season. Pudge Rodriguez. So to go out there and put up the numbers I did is fantastic."

Fantastic, but not all that surprising for Latos, who has been on a pitching streak as dominant as anyone else in the majors. Since May 1, he's 9-2 with a 1.56 ERA. For comparison's sake, in the same span Ubaldo Jimenez is 10-1 with a 2.72 ERA and Josh Johnson is 7-2 with a 1.19 ERA.

Those two aces will be in Anaheim next week, one of them getting the nod to start the All-Star Game. Latos will be back home, watching on TV, still unknown to the majority of the baseball world.

A few more outings like this one tonight and it's hard to see this Alexandria native remaining anonymous much longer.


Cwj said...

I like this Latos kid. Definitely gotta tip your cap to him.

The Rightfully Ignored One said...


What is the word on International FA signings....Rizzo said recently that Nats were players at the July 2 deadline but nothing announced?

Anonymous said...

Latos has been really excellent this year. I wasn't expecting much when I heard he was pitching against us TBH.

Les in NC said...

I think someone has mislead the guys here that are posting about the July 2nd "deadline" for signing internationals FA's. Its my understanding that July 2 was not the deadline, but rather the beginning of the signing period, is that not right?

VCUAlum Kyle said...

Latos and Joey Votto should have both been All-Stars. I know Votto is an All-Star now because of the fan final vote but he should not have been on that vote but Ryan Howard should have been. And no disrespect to Heath Bell who is an excellent closer having another wonderful season but Latos deserved that ad on injury replacement spot over him.

You can blame ESPN & FOX for only showing Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets, Phillies, Dodgers & some Angels games when they have their broadcast. Finally the Rays are getting some TV exposure after their World Series run in '08. Bottom line the mid market teams have great young talent not getting air time and that’s a shame!


Doc said...

Nice article Mark, on a pitcher who deserves to be getting more ink. He's an All Star in every respect.

Traveler8 said...

This really has been the year for pitchers - three of the best games this season to observe this (from a neutral, not Nats, perspective) have been the Ubaldo Jimenez game, the Fausto Carmona game (in Cleveland) and this one.

Anonymous said...

Les in NC,

Yes, July 2 is opening of signing period for international FAs but posters are asking Mark to hold Rizzo's feet to the fire: Rizzo assured us that Nats would be players in this market but many suspect that this was hot air.

JayB said...

Exactly....Many other teams announced big dollar signings and plenty of them (see PIT for goodness sake).

Rizzo Blog said he was active at the July 2 "deadline". Brain and Chris both have written about the farce that is the Nats International Effort. Time for Mark to find out what is the reality of this years effort.....please.

Anonymous said...

VCUKyle - I get your point about exposure but the Padres just don't excite much anyone including their own fans. They may make the playoffs and it will be based on their pitching if they don't have any injuries.

Latos is a young decent pitcher. The Nats again had their opportunities and didn't take advantage and let Latos stay around too long in the game.

natsfan1a said...

Interesting about the Latos contingent. I wondered whether he might have friends and family there, knowing that he was from the area. We could definitely hear the Padres fans last night.

Speaking of Padres fans, did anyone else see the group with the "Let Stairs Hit" t-shirts last night? I thought it was pretty funny (though personally I'd be okay with them not letting him hit against our pitchers).

In other news, we were seated, as usual, in the upper deck near the press box, and we noticed that the organist was watching the Lebron show on his monitor. Head in the game, organist dude! Who cares where James went, anyway. :-)

natsfan1a said...

Oh, and thanks to sec 222 for the low-down on his group's next anthem performance. I need to check the calendar and see what we have going on August 13.

Anonymous said...

Uhmmm Rizzo looks pretty active he did sign a bunch of his draft picks ... this year's draft signings seem to have increased significantly? And gee ... they still have to sign Harper, Solis (the guy is a lefty they really need him!), Cole and Grace (another lefty) ... perhaps the another lefty Ray? Smalling and Rapp are still out there as well.

Given that right now, Trevor Holder looks to be the best bet for a #3 power pitcher after Strasburg and Zimmermann you have to wonder just how useful the Internationals are? Aroldis Chapman, the left handed Strasburg, has been converted to a reliever in AAA. Where is Jaime? What's up with Frias? Oh and what ever happened to Nate Karns (no he's not International but he is a true power arm)?

Brian from NFA was able to track down the 31 players that Mike Rizzo mentioned in his MASN blog. Did you spend any time reading his research JayB? Sheesh. But right now, as Rizzo apparently surmised, Chapman does not look like he is worth what they signed him for. IN fact none of the Cubans look to be. There are no Livan's in the mix unfortunately. Perhaps its best to be happy with Cuban Livan "Ponce de Leon" Hernandez and his legendary fountain of youth.

Seems best to be more worried about the pitching and players currently in the minors. At some point, Stras will get shutdown and Zimnn will be taking over. It'll be interesting to see if any of the other prospects advance to Harrisburg and beyond before the end of the season or if they too get shut down.

JayB said...

Read Brain's work carefully and he is saying that he is very disappointed in the international FA signings to date. All are very old for that market. Signing a 21 year old from DR is a joke and that is what Brian was saying in is subtle way. You can no ignore the Intl FA DR type market place and be a winning organization. Look at the make up of teams....30% at least are Intl Free agents and Nats are not players in those markets at denying it, no disputing it, why would you even want to sugar coat the facts here unless you just think is is cool to say the opposite of me.....

natsfan1a said...

On another note, and in re. tonight's game: last night, when we were heading into the Metro station after the game, a guy was handing out tomorrow's (which would be today's) Post Express newspaper. We picked up copies and were reading our horoscopes on the train, for fun. 1b was reading mine to me and it said (clears throat and picks up clipping) "You may be able to score an exciting come-from-behind victory, provided you don't get frustrated or disheartened." I'm like, "You're making that up, right?" But then she showed it to me and that's what it said. hmmm...

Of course, earlier today we watched Major League for the umpteenth time and, after watching the Indians' rousing comeback to win the tiebreaker at the end of the movie, I said "What if that was the win they were talking about?" Uh-oh, d'ya think? Nah. :-)

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