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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 14, 2010

MLB: Latos' big arm keeps Padres perfect vs. Giants

By Andrew Baggarly
San Jose Mercury News

SAN FRANCISCO The Bochy brothers, Bruce and Joe, probably won't team up in the three-legged race at the next family picnic.

Joe Bochy is a San Diego Padres area scout in Florida. He plucked young right-hander Mat Latos out of a place called Coconut Creek.

And whenever manager Bruce Bochy's Giants face the kid, it's as if they're swinging through swamp water.

Latos came within a half-step of a perfect game Thursday afternoon, yielding only an infield single in the sixth inning to Eli Whiteside while shading Jonathan Sanchez yet again as the first-place Padres won, 1-0, to complete a three-game sweep at AT&T Park.

Latos faced one batter over the minimum, struck out five and didn't issue a walk. The 22-year-old has thrown 16 scoreless innings while frustrating the Giants twice this season, both times outshining Sanchez.

"Yeah, I know a little about him," Bruce Bochy said. "He's a big kid with a big arm, and they think a lot of him. To close it out in the ninth, he showed good poise, too."

Sanchez won't put Latos on his Feliz Navidad mailing list. In two starts, Sanchez has allowed two runs and four hits to the Padres in 15 innings. Yet thanks mostly to Latos, he's 0-2 against them.

And guess what? Sanchez and Latos are lined up to face each other again Tuesday at Petco Park.

"That's how the game is," Sanchez said. "So hopefully it's not a third time."

Latos also accounted for the game's only run, dumping a single into right field that scored Lance Zawadzki in the fifth inning.

"He won the game. He got the RBI. It looked like he was going to catch Whitey's ball," Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "That's how close he came to being perfect."

The Giants, meanwhile, spent time examining their flaws. Bochy, general manager Brian Sabean and hitting coach Hensley Meulens holed up in the manager's office after the game. Bochy said the club would "talk about what our options are," but left the impression that no roster moves would be upcoming.

"More than anything, we're a better hitting club than this," Bochy said. "We've got to get these guys to relax. A couple times we were overswinging out there."

Bochy acknowledged that top prospect Buster Posey was tearing up the Pacific Coast League for a .355 average but said, "right now, this is the group of guys we have, and we're a little banged up."

The Giants have scored eight runs in six games against the Padres all losses. Even when the Giants squared up pitches, the Padres seemed to position themselves with clairvoyance.

Matt Downs still couldn't believe that third baseman Chase Headley was playing him on the grass in the ninth, allowing him to snare a scorched line drive.

"I swear to God, their guys were in the right position every time," said Huff, whose hard grounder was gobbled up by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in the seventh inning. "It's like they knew it was coming. You've gotta credit their scouts, I guess, or something."

The Giants knew Latos had arm strength. He showed it during batting practice Tuesday, when he teased fans in the bleachers by chucking a baseball over their heads.

The ball sailed out of the stadium and into the players' parking lot where it shattered the sunroof on broadcaster Dave Flemming's new car.

The Giants sent Latos a $1,200 repair bill. Then he exacted his own price.

He retired the first 15 hitters before Whiteside hit a chopper back up the middle. It went off the heel of Latos' glove and deflected to third baseman Headley, whose throw nearly beat Whiteside, anyway.

"I should've knocked it down," Latos said. "It was right in front of me."

Downs grounded into a fielder's choice but advanced to second base when Whiteside's takeout slide forced an errant throw from second baseman Zawadzki. But Downs got no further as Sanchez lined out, and Aaron Rowand flied out.

The Giants didn't get another base runner, as Latos retired the final nine hitters for his first career complete game.