Mat Latos K's 10 in return from flu as Padres maintain lead in NL West

SAN DIEGO -- Mat Latos quickly answered any lingering questions about his health. For extra measure, the 22-year-old San Diego Padres ace ended up with a big league record.

Latos bounced back from stomach flu to strike out 10 for the third time in four starts, pitching the National League West leaders to a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.

Latos held Los Angeles to one run and four hits in seven innings. He set a big league record with his 15th straight start of five or more innings with two or fewer runs allowed. He had been tied with Greg Maddux (1993-94) and Mike Scott (1986) with 14.

"It's great to be able to set a record, but my career is not going to be defined by setting one record," the right-hander said. "My career is going to be defined by my reliability and the way I go about my business on the mound, day in, day out."

Latos' consistency has impressed his teammates and manager Bud Black.

"It was real stuff. Great pitching," Black said. "He's pitched very consistently all year. What you've seen, obviously, is a guy with great talent, with good stuff, who's throwing strikes, who's pitching aggressive. When you have that type of stuff and that mindset, good things will happen."

Latos (14-5) also lowered his major league-leading ERA from 2.25 to 2.21. His 10 strikeouts matched his career high, and his 113 pitches were a career high. He walked none.

Most of all, he's doing it in a pennant race.

"I love it," Latos said. "I think it's an extra adrenaline kick to us. We wake up every morning and we're in a pennant race. I'm doing something I love to do, and we have a chance to go somewhere."

It was the second straight win for the Padres following their 10-game losing streak. San Diego retained its one-game lead over the San Francisco Giants, who won 6-3 at Arizona.

Latos was scratched from his start Monday night due to stomach flu. The right-hander lobbied to pitch, but Black said he was weakened and dehydrated by the illness. San Diego reliever Tim Stauffer made an emergency start, and the Padres beat Los Angeles 4-2 to end their longest losing streak since a franchise-record 13-game skid in May 1994.

"I thought he was electric," catcher Nick Hundley said, referring to Latos. "That's a really quality lineup. When you have that good of stuff and you can command four pitches, that's what you get."

Said Latos: "Everything was working. Most of all, chemistry with the catcher. Me and Hundley get along. I had good control of my fastball. Whatever pitch he wanted, he set up where he wanted it, and I already had it gripped and ready to go."

Latos outdueled Clayton Kershaw, who allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings, struck out six and walked two.

"They were very impressive tonight," Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said.

Heath Bell got a five-out save, his 39th in 42 chances this year and his 26th straight. Bell struck out four, including James Loney with runners on first and second to end the eighth. The right-hander pitched a perfect ninth.

"I think any time you lose games, it's frustrating," Kershaw said. "Tip your cap to Latos. That guy pitched awesome. He's got great stuff. I have nothing but good things to say about him."

Adrian Gonzalez hit a leadoff single in the second against Kershaw (11-10) and scored on Aaron Cunningham's sacrifice fly. Gonzalez hit a two-out double in the third to bring in Chris Denorfia, aboard on a leadoff single.

Mike Adams started the eighth for the Padres and allowed pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll's double to right. Denorfia made a diving catch of pinch-hitter Jay Gibbons' line drive to center before Bell came on to replace Adams. Bell struck out Scott Podsednik but walked Rafael Furcal. Loney struck out to end the threat.

"Great play by Denorfia," Torre said. "That was the game. The ball gets by him and we probably get two runs and are in a position to win a ballgame, but that's why they're where they are -- they make plays and they do things like that."

Bell said it was good to see the Padres playing the way they had been, with good pitching and good defense.

"Those 10 games, I don't think all 10 of them, maybe it was the last five, for some reason we weren't playing our game," Bell said. "We weren't us. We were somebody else. I don't know what it was. But we found ourselves. We found our swagger. We got our mojo."

Game notes
The Dodgers designated INF Ronnie Belliard for assignment and purchased the contract of OF Trent Oeltjen from Triple-A Albuquerque. ... The Padres recalled OF Luis Durango from Triple-A Portland. ... Attendance was 20,071, less than half of Petco Park's capacity.