Mat Latos

Mat Latos, conquering villain

Even though they don’t know the man, Giants fans like to think they have Mat Latos figured out. For those unwilling to forget the past, there are three pieces of anecdotal evidence orange-and-black bleeders can pull from when making the case that Latos is a bigger jerk than the jerks on other teams:

— Latos once threw a baseball over the bleachers and through Dave Flemming’s moonroof.

— He uttered these words during the 2010 pennant race, which led to the famous “#MatLatosComplaints” hashtag.

“Baseball works in funny ways,” said Latos, now 0-4 with a 10.13 ERA over his past four starts. “The only way I could honestly put it is, we could be like the Giants and go and change our whole lineup, put guys with ‘San Francisco Giants’  across their jerseys. We didn’t.

“We added two guys [Tejada and Ryan Ludwick, now hitting .221 with five homers in 54 games with the Padres]. We’ve been the same team all year. We haven’t just gone and grabbed guys from other teams.”

— He wrote “I hate SF” on balls he autographed for charity.

Latos was traded from the San Diego Padres to the Cincinnati Reds this past off-season, a deal that was unfortunate … in my opinion, anyway. This has nothing to do with the relative strength of the Padres’ pitching staff or the players San Diego got back for Latos. What’s sad is that the NL West’s premier villain, someone who made his emotions obvious to all, is gone. And with Latos’ departure, the last semblance of entertainment value the Padres possessed also vanished.

Latos himself didn’t fare much better after the trade. That is, until his last start against Milwaukee, a 4-hitter in which he allowed 1 run and struck out 13. Against the Giants he matched that feat. He didn’t strike out as many (7), but he walked none and allowed only 2 hits (one was a pinch-hit triple by Brandon Belt, who probably shouldn’t be benched in favor of a Hector Sanchez-C/Buster Posey-1B lineup as often as has been) in his second straight complete game victory.

Although he took the loss against Jonathan Sanchez on the last day of the 2010 season, Latos has been dominant at AT&T over his career: 6 starts, 43 IP, 1.67 ERA, 0.60 WHIP.

“A lot has to do with me being comfortable here,” Latos said. “I’ve been pitching here since ’09. Just familiar with the ballpark.”

Latos credited a tweak in his mechanics for his recent success, after his ERA hit 5.20 after allowing 7 earned runs over 4 innings at Cleveland on June 18.

“It’s helped a lot. Just keeping me more square and more straight to the plate and on target,” said Latos, who wouldn’t be baited into referencing his (former?) disdain for San Francisco and the team that plays here.

“A team is a team. It doesn’t matter who I’m facing. It’s always good to get a win.”

Latos’ postgame comments (2:41):

Despite reports of “immaturity” over the years, we don’t have Latos figured out any more than the Giants can figure out how to handle his pitching arsenal. The Giants won’t face Latos again this year, unless these two teams meet in the playoffs.

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