Mat Latos is a superstitious type. He jumps over the first-base line on the way to the mound, even if he has to take an awkward hop or shuffle step to do it.
On Saturday, Latos literally knocked on wood — the side of his locker — when he was asked why he has pitched so well at Great American Ball Park.
Latos improved to 12-3 at home with a 3.12 ERA in the last two seasons by getting the win Saturday night against the Cardinals. He has turned a hitter’s ballpark into his ballpark since being traded from the Padres to the Reds after the 2011 season.
“San Diego was a big ballpark,” he said. “I could go up there and flip sliders down the middle and pitch up in the zone and get away with it for the most part. Here you can’t do that. You have to concentrate on keeping the ball down, mixing the breaking stuff in. You just have to concentrate. If you have one lapse, it’s 3-0 or 4-0 already.”
Latos’ latest performance — two earned runs in seven innings in a 4-2 win Saturday — extended three streaks.
• Latos is 6-0 this season in 13 starts with a 2.87 ERA. He’s one of only four pitchers in baseball with at least six wins and no losses. The Reds have blown saves in four of Latos’ starts.
“He doesn’t let the ballpark affect him,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s taking a page out of Johnny Cueto’s and Bronson (Arroyo’s) book. I remember talking to Ferguson Jenkins about pitching in Chicago when I went there as a manager. I said, ‘Do you do anything different?’ He said, ‘No, you just pitch your game. You’ve got to be yourself.’ ”
• The Reds had beaten the Cardinals three times this season through Saturday, and Latos started all three games, getting the win in two of them.
“That’s a great lineup,” Latos said. “They used to kick the crap out of me really good. This year, I’ve adjusted to them as they adjust to pitchers throughout the season. That’s been the key, always watching video, seeing what they’re doing, their approach, and adjusting to that.”
• Latos hasn’t suffered a loss in his last 20 starts. That’s the longest streak in Reds history. He’s 10-0 in that span. His last loss came on Aug. 24 last season against the Cardinals.
“With the stuff he has, he has full confidence going out there,” catcher Devin Mesoraco said. “If he executes the pitch, he’s going to have a very good opportunity to get the guy out. It’s good to see he has that mentality where he can go out there and get after guys.”
Still, Baker isn’t ready to anoint Latos as a big-game pitcher because he has pitched into the eighth inning only once this season.
“Almost. Your big-game boy goes a little deeper into games,” Baker said. “That’s why I say almost. He’s on the way. He’s getting better.”
Reds at Cubs, 8:05 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410