After playing a key role in Cincinnati's division-clinching victory, Latos looks to win his fourth straight decision Thursday as he faces the visiting Milwaukee Brewers , who are barely hanging on in the playoff chase.
Jocketty sent former 17-game winner Edinson Volquez and promising youngsters Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal to San Diego in exchange for the right-hander on Dec. 17, hoping to bolster a starting rotation that underachieved in 2011.
Latos (13-4, 3.60 ERA) hasn't disappointed, helping Cincinnati post a 3.43 ERA that ranks fourth in the majors.
He had one of his best starts of the year Saturday, holding the Los Angeles Dodgers to six hits over eight innings in a 6-0 win as the Reds (93-62) clinched their second NL Central title in three seasons.
"I thought it was the best I've looked all year," Latos told the team's official website. "I'm still an ugly cat, but I still thought I pitched great. I feel good and I'm excited. I'm ready for the playoffs."
Latos, who is 3-0 with a 2.52 ERA over his last five outings - with the Reds winning each time - may have pitched even better in a 3-1 victory over the Brewers on June 25. He allowed only a homer to Norichika Aoki and three other hits while striking out a career-high 13 in one of his two complete games this season.
He allowed one run and three hits in seven innings Aug. 8 at Miller Park before the Reds fell 3-2 to the Brewers (80-75), who are still holding out hope for a return the playoffs after beating Cincinnati 8-1 on Wednesday.
The defending Central champions have won 26 of 35 to climb back into playoff race, but are 3 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the NL's second wild card.
Ryan Braun hit his 41st homer and Aoki - 0 for 13 over his previous three games - went 3 for 4 with a solo shot in the third. Braun is hitting .413 with two homers and four doubles over his last 12."We're playing really good," manager Ron Roenicke said. "At this point where we've put ourselves, unfortunately we need help from somebody. But if we continue to play well, it gives us a chance that somebody can get hot and come in and beat (St. Louis).
"At this point, they're all critical games."
"I don't know why we're not getting hits. Maybe it's because we made the playoffs, but we need to wake up," said Brandon Phillips , who went 0 for 5. "We're just not getting it done right now."
They'll look to bounce back against Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta , who is coming off a rough outing.
Peralta (2-1, 3.04) allowed three runs and walked four while surrendering five hits in only 2 2-3 innings of a 10-4 loss at Washington on Saturday. It was in stark contrast to his previous start, when the right-hander gave up two hits in eight innings of a 3-0 win over the Mets on Sept. 16.
The rookie has yet to face the Reds, who have won six of the teams' eight meetings in Cincinnati this season.
|September 12, 2012||Carlos Gomez||Day-to-Day||Left game - right quad contusion|
|September 09, 2012||Corey Hart||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained left ankle|
|September 09, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right wrist|
|July 29, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|July 17, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Right thigh strain|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||60-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
|September 19, 2012||Aroldis Chapman||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder fatigue|
|September 19, 2012||Ryan Ludwick||Day-to-Day||Left game - left groin tightness|
|September 08, 2012||Zack Cozart||Day-to-Day||Strained left oblique|
|August 31, 2012||Kristopher Negron||15-Day DL||Torn right ACL - out for season|
|August 01, 2012||Devin Mesoraco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 01, 2012||Wilson Valdez||Day-to-Day||Left game - stiff neck|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- The silence in the Brewers' clubhouse vividly described their plight. One out away from finishing off an impressive shutout, they let a must-win game slip away.
And probably the postseason, too.
Slumping Todd Frazier hit a tying, two-out homer in the ninth inning, and Dioner Navarro followed with an RBI triple that sent the Cincinnati Reds to a 2-1 victory Thursday and dealt a major setback to the Brewers' playoff chances.
They slipped four games behind idle St. Louis for the final NL wild card with only six games left. They headed home knowing there was little chance the 2011 NL Central champions would still be playing in another week.
"It's a crushing loss," closer John Axford said. "It hurts. It put us all in a tough spot."
All they needed was one more out from Axford (5-8), who had converted his last 15 save chances. Frazier connected on the first pitch for his first homer since Aug. 21, tying it at 1. Jay Bruce singled and came around on Navarro's triple to deep right-center field, just out of the outfielders' reach.
"It's not like Navarro hit it hard, but exactly to the good point," center fielder Carlos Gomez said.
The comeback ended with the Reds' first on-field celebration since they dethroned the Brewers as NL Central champions on Saturday.
Until the ninth inning, the Reds played a like a team that had already clinched, managing only three singles and fanning a dozen times. Axford's rare failure - he's 33 of 42 overall in save chances - provided a stunning finish for the Brewers, who walked off the field slowly with heads down.
There was a sense that it had slipped away.
"Obviously, we'll have to win every game and hope for some help on the other side," Axford said.
The Brewers got themselves back into the wild card race by playing their best baseball of the season, winning 24 of 30 as of last weekend. They've started running out of time after losing four of their last six.
The Brewers finish with six at Miller Park against Houston and San Diego. Meanwhile, the Cardinals finish with six at home against Washington and Cincinnati, the two teams vying for the NL's top seed in the playoffs.
The Reds go to Pittsburgh for three games over the weekend. They've been using their regular lineup but doing very little on offense - three runs and 12 hits in the last two games combined.
"Runs are not our worry," Frazier said. "Our worry is figuring out who we'll play in the playoffs."
Manager Dusty Baker missed his eighth game while recovering from an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke. He was at the ballpark before the game. Doctors think he could return to managing on Monday in St. Louis for the start of the final series of the regular season.
Mat Latos , who pitched eight shutout innings during a 6-0 win on Saturday night that clinched the division title, allowed only three this over seven innings, including Gomez's 17th homer leading off the third inning.
Jonathan Broxton (3-1) escaped a two-on threat in the ninth to keep it 1-0.
Milwaukee had another concern as it left town. Rookie starter Wily Peralta came out of the game after throwing a high fastball - his 71st pitch - to fan Latos in the sixth inning. The 23-year-old is considered Milwaukee's top pitching prospect. He allowed only two hits and fanned a career-high six.
Peralta said his biceps started bothering him early in the game.
"It was a little tight," the rookie said. "It started in the second inning a little bit and got worse every time. Until then I got ahead of the hitters, threw strikes and kept the ball down. I'm happy the way I threw today."
NOTES: The Brewers finished 34-47 on the road. They're 46-29 at Miller Park. ... The Reds went 50-31 at Great American Ball Park, the most wins there in a season. ... Gomez's homer was only the second allowed by Latos in his last six starts, four of them at homer-friendly Great American Ball Park. ... The Reds won the season series against the Brewers 9-6. ... Reds LF Ryan Ludwick was out of the lineup for the seventh consecutive game with a sore groin. ... The Reds drew 2,347,251 at home this season, the second-highest attendance in the ballpark's 10 seasons.
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