(Sports Network) -- Mat Latos' quick emergence into a frontline pitcher is a big reason why the San Diego Padres have stood atop the National League West for the majority of the 2010 campaign. With his team mired in by far their worst stretch of the season, the talented youngster will try to play the role of stopper when the slumping Padres begin an important three-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight at Petco Park.
San Diego had owned a seemingly-comfortable 6 1/2-game lead on second-place San Francisco in the division standings as of August 25, but the margin has dwindled down to a single game due to an untimely 10-game losing streak that was extended with Sunday's 4-2 setback to Colorado. It's the club's longest skid since it dropped a franchise-worst 13 in a row from May 8-21, 1994.
"We've got to turn this around cause there is a lot of baseball yet to be played," said San Diego manager Bud Black after yesterday's game. "I've said it before, it's in us cause I've seen it, but we haven't done it the last 10 games."
While the Padres are still in good position for making the playoffs, history isn't on their side. Only two teams -- the 1951 New York Giants and 1982 Atlanta Braves -- have advanced to the postseason after losing 10 straight contests or more that year.
San Diego had tied Sunday's tilt at 2-2 on Miguel Tejada's two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning, but the Rockies went back in front on Melvin Mora's two-RBI single off reliever Tim Stauffer (3-3) in the top of the seventh.
Stauffer recorded just one out after taking over for starter Clayton Richard, who limited Colorado to two runs -- one earned -- while throwing 100 pitches over the first six innings.
Tejada finished 3-for-4 for San Diego, which mustered only seven hits as a team and has totaled a mere 23 runs over the course of its losing streak. The Padres have scored two times or less in seven of those defeats.
Latos hasn't needed a whole lot of support as of late, however, as the right- hander has yielded two runs or fewer in each of his 14 starts and has amassed an 8-1 record with a stellar 1.51 earned run average over that span. He's struck out an impressive 104 batters in 89 1/3 innings during that time period as well.
The 22-year-old hasn't won in either of his past two starts, but was able to keep the Padres in both games before they eventually lost. He held Philadelphia to one run in a seven-inning no-decision on August 27, then permitted one run and four hits while fanning 10 Arizona hitters in just six innings against the Diamondbacks this past Wednesday.
Latos, whose 2.25 ERA for the season is tops in the NL at the moment, hasn't had much luck in past matchups with the Dodgers as well. He's 0-2 in three lifetime starts against Los Angeles despite an overall ERA of 3.21, and was handed a tough 2-1 loss at Dodger Stadium on August 3 after surrendering a pair of runs in six innings.
Los Angeles is in a bit of a rut of its own as well, having lost six of its last eight tilts to all but kill the team's postseason hopes. The Dodgers also had trouble generating offense in their last game, managing only three hits off Jonathan Sanchez and two San Francisco relievers in Sunday's 3-0 defeat to the Giants.
The Dodgers struck out a total of 13 times on the evening, with Sanchez racking out nine punchouts over the game's initial seven innings.
"Sanchez was electric and threw a lot of strikes," said Los Angeles manager Joe Torre. "We've put pressure on our starters because we've given them nothing to work with."
Hiroki Kuroda (10-12) did pitch well for the Dodgers in a losing cause, lasting eight innings and permitting three runs on six hits while registering eight strikeouts. The Japanese righty had allowed just one run over his first six frames before giving up a two-run homer to Juan Uribe in the seventh.
The Padres will have a good chance of ending their slide if Dodgers scheduled starter Vicente Padilla repeats his most recent performance. Against NL East- leading Atlanta on August 15, the veteran was tagged for eight runs and eight hits before exiting after 4 1/3 innings of his team's 13-1 loss. Padilla was placed on the 15-day disabled list the following day due to a bulging disc in his neck.
The right-hander acquitted himself awfully well in an August 4 clash against the Padres, though, with Padilla striking out nine San Diego batters while firing a two-hit shutout at Dodger Stadium that night. The effort improved him to 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 18 lifetime appearances against the Padres, nine of which have been starts.
Los Angeles has won seven of its 12 meetings with the Padres this season and are 4-2 in games played at Petco Park between the teams in 2010.