Rookie, Padres’ bullpen one-hit struggling Reds

The fastball zoomed in at 97 mph. The slider bit late and hard. The changeup? A swing-warping 82 mph.

With everything going so well, rookie Mat Latos was one pitch from being unhittable.

Latos allowed only a solo homer over seven innings, and the bullpen completed the one-hitter Wednesday night, leading the San Diego Padres to a 7-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds and their first consecutive wins in a month.

“Everything clicked,” said Latos, who gave up Jerry Hairston Jr.‘s homer in the fourth. “My changeup was down, my slider was good, the fastball I felt I could throw anywhere.”

During the Padres‘ midseason meltdown, the 21-year-old Latos has been a bright spot. He has made three starts since being called up from Double-A, and gotten better each time. On Wednesday, he allowed one hit and a walk, retiring 21 of the 23 batters he faced.

“Let’s enjoy tonight’s win,” manager Bud Black said. “It was a great win for a young pitcher. I don’t want to draw any major conclusions about anything, but in-between the lines, there’s a lot of things I like.”

Latos, an 11th-round draft pick in 2006, threw only 86 pitches. Greg Burke and Mike Eckstrom both threw an inning to finish San Diego’s second one-hitter of the season.

“Their guy pitched a great game,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s a big-time prospect, and it looked like he was throwing downhill. That young man was throwing good. He was close to a no-hitter.”

He had a 5-0 lead before he took the mound. Adrian Gonzalez and Kyle Blanks homered in the first inning off struggling Aaron Harang (5-12), who leads the majors in losses.

San Diego won consecutive games for the first time since June 27-28. The Padres have lost 20 of 26 since July 1.

Like the Padres, the Reds have been in a midseason meltdown, losing 14 of their last 18. They have fallen 10 games under .500 (45-55) for the first time this season.

Harang’s inability to win has become a major frustration. Gonzalez hit a two-run homer in the first – his third homer in three games – and Blanks added a three-run shot that put San Diego in control after only 21 pitches.

“Our offense is not such that we can come right back and score a lot of runs,” Baker said. “He settled down, but it was too late. That’s totally unacceptable. It’s embarrassing. It’s pitiful to watch. It’s terrible. We’ve got to get after them. They’re taking it to us right now. They’re not a good club, and they’re beating us, so what does that make us?”

Harang hasn’t won since May 25, going 0-8 in 12 starts. It’s the longest losing streak of his career and the longest by a Reds pitcher since Danny Graves lost eight straight decisions in 2003.

Harang went 6-17 last season, tying Houston’s Brandon Backe for most losses in the National League. He lost 33 pounds in the offseason, hoping to become more agile on the mound, but the dieting hasn’t translated into winning.

“We’ve tried all kinds of stuff,” said Harang, who has had trouble in the first inning. “I really don’t know. It’s one of those things. Maybe we need to be more aggressive, or maybe we need to throw more pitches in the bullpen. It’s one of those things that just happen.”

David Eckstein doubled with one out in the first – his only hit in two games since returning from the disabled list – and Gonzalez hit his 28th homer three pitches later. Gonzalez is two homers from becoming the first Padre to have three 30-homer seasons.

After Harang gave up a single and a walk, Blanks hit a ball into the upper deck in left field for his fourth homer in the last nine games.

NOTES: Black made a change to his starting rotation. Right-hander Josh Geer, who has given up an NL-leading 27 homers, moves to the bullpen. Reliever Edward Mujica will start in his place on Saturday against Milwaukee. It will be his first start in the majors. … Hits king Pete Rose attended his second straight game, sitting behind home plate. The crowd of 17,201 gave him a standing ovation when he was shown on the videoboard. … OF Wladimir Balentien, obtained from Seattle for reliever Robert Manuel, is expected to join the Reds before the start of a series Friday against Colorado.