Not only is Mat Latos living up to high expectations, he is also quickly becoming the Padres’ most efficient and effective starting pitcher.

Latos outdueled Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, whose solid outing wasn’t enough to derail Latos and the Padres’ belated bats.

Latos (4-3) allowed a run and four hits over six innings while striking out six as the Padres beat the Seattle Mariners 8-1 on Sunday before a crowd of 33,315.

The 22-year-old Latos, with just 19 career starts under his belt, has won three of his last four starts and allowed a total of three earned runs over his last four starts, covering a 29-inning span.

He has also lasted at least six innings and allowed two runs or fewer in five consecutive starts. 

Hernandez (2-4) allowed just three runs, two earned, and seven hits in seven innings of work. He also struck out six.

Once Hernandez departed, trailing 3-1, things got ugly in a hurry.

Reliever Jesus Colome loaded the bases on two singles and a walk to start the eighth inning and then was replaced by Kanekoa Texeira—who promptly yielded back-to-back doubles to Chris Denorfia and Nick Hundley to drive in four runs. Will Venable drove in the fifth run with a sacrifice fly to left field to give the Padres an 8-1 lead.

Latos turned over his product to the bullpen, as Luke Gregerson, Ryan Webb, and Joe Thatcher combined for three scoreless innings.

San Diego (26-18) features the lowest ERA in the National League at 3.03 despite the 15 runs surrendered Friday. So far in 2010, the Padres have proven capable of providing just enough offense to go with that pitching to make things work.

The Friars split two games against the red-hot Dodgers and then won the last two games in Seattle (16-28) after dropping Friday’s 15-8 rout. They came to Seattle in first place in the National League West and left in first place.

The Padres return to San Diego for a nine-game home stand, starting Tuesday against Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals (26-19).

San Diego will look to send a message—and get a little revenge—against the NL Central-leading Cardinals.

St. Louis has sent the Padres packing in San Diego’s last two playoff appearances.

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