video thumbnail

MIL@CIN: Aoki cranks a solo shot in the sixth

CINCINNATI -- Zack Greinke gets an asterisk for his nine scoreless innings on Friday, in a game not decided until the 10th, but the fact remains that the Reds' Mat Latos did something Monday night that no Brewers pitcher has managed in 230 games, since the April day in 2010 that Yovani Gallardo shut down the Braves at Miller Park.

Latos started the game, and he finished it, too.

Logging a career-high 13 strikeouts and firing 24 consecutive strikes in one stretch, Latos beat the Brewers with his second career complete game, 3-1, at Great American Ball Park.

"I hate tipping my cap, but I have to tonight," said Brewers center fielder Nyjer Morgan.

Gallardo also pitched well, but familiar Brewers foe Jay Bruce supplied some offense by stinging a two-run double in the fourth inning, and that was good enough for Latos and the Reds to widen their lead in the National League Central. Cincinnati is up two games on the Pirates and Cardinals -- who are tied for second -- and 7 1/2 games on the fourth-place Brewers, who entered the week with a chance to close the gap in the division but instead ran into Latos.

The key to his first complete game since 2010, for the Padres?

"Strike one, period," said Latos, the Reds' prized acquisition last winter from San Diego. "Strike one, strike one, strike one. If I throw strike one and they want to beat it in the dirt or hit a lazy fly ball, that's fine for the first pitch."

Latos allowed Norichika Aoki's sixth-inning solo home run and three other harmless hits, facing his toughest inning with a 2-1 lead in the seventh. Rickie Weeks doubled to the right-field corner with one out, and George Kottaras worked a pinch-hit walk with two outs, but Latos retired another pinch-hitter, Travis Ishikawa, to keep the Reds ahead.

Reds cleanup hitter Brandon Phillips added an insurance RBI double off Manny Parra in the eighth inning.

Latos took the field in the ninth to a round of cheers from 34,485 fans that grew to a roar when he struck out Weeks for the third time to end the game.

"Kid was electric, man," Morgan said. "He was getting ahead. What was it, twenty-some strikes in a row that I heard. He was dialed in. There were a couple of wishy-washy calls, but you just have to tip your cap to the kid. There's going to be days when you run into a solid individual like that. We just have to flush this one and get ready to go tomorrow."

The series continues Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. The Brewers must win both to avoid leaving Cincinnati further out of first place than when they arrived.

The Reds will start Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey in those games, each of whom owns an ERA at least one point lower than the 5.20 mark that Latos trudged into Monday night with. He had allowed seven Indians runs over four innings in his previous start.

"I know he's been struggling a little bit recently, but he threw a great game," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "The ball-strike ratio was outstanding. I may be wrong, I don't know if you guys counted -- did he throw 24 strikes in a row?"

Latos did indeed, during a stretch that began with Corey Hart's inning-ending strikeout in the first and did not end until Aramis Ramirez took a 95-mph fastball for a first-pitch ball with one out in the fourth.

"That's incredible," Roenicke said.

"That's what you hope for," said Bruce. "He did great. He didn't really need us. It was awesome. He actually didn't need us. He got a couple hits, pitched the whole game."

Latos had two singles, both off Gallardo. But Bruce did the damage, which he is prone to do against the Brewers.

Bruce is in his fifth season with the Reds and has played more games against all four of their NL Central foes outside of Milwaukee. But has saved his best games for the Brewers, with more home runs (19) against them, and RBIs (42, including the two on Monday), than any other team.

Gallardo was otherwise tough, holding the Reds to those two runs on four hits over six quality innings. But he walked four batters and admitted his command, especially his fastball command, was missing.

"But, really battled well," Roenicke said. "He kept us in the ballgame. He was not himself -- his command was off."

Gallardo owns the Brewers' only complete game in the team's last 255 regular-season contests. This year, a starter has worked at least eight innings three times -- all Greinke.

"We're out there battling," Gallardo said. "Hopefully, not only do we get one, but there's a lot more than one to come."

"I keep expecting it to happen, but it hasn't," Roenicke said.

Greinke came very close. He pitched nine scoreless innings with three hits at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday, only White Sox rookie Chris Sale was just as good. The Brewers finally scored in the top of the 10th inning and won, 1-0.

They have found only frustration since then, missing some late scoring opportunities in an 8-6 loss on Saturday and going completely quiet in a 1-0 loss on Sunday.

"We have to swing the bats," Roenicke said. "We're not giving ourselves many opportunities to score runs. When you get only two or three a night, you'd better really be good with runners in scoring position, and we really haven't been."

MLB.com Comments