Mat Latos returned to Petco Park on Thursday night and showed his former teammates he's the same hard-to-handle guy in Cincinnati red that he was as their ace.
The Padres, in turn, showed Latos their newly discovered resilience, expressed in a six-game winning streak. Rallying late, they subdued Cincinnati, 2-1, when Yasmani Grandal doubled leading off the ninth against Logan Ondrusek and scored on Everth Cabrera's 380-foot single to the wall in left-center against Sam LeCure.
"There's always satisfaction," Grandal said. "You have a trade that went down that helped them and obviously helped us out. I thank them for trading me here. If I was with the Reds, I'd probably be in [Triple-A] Louisville. It worked out for both of us."
Picking up for Latos, southpaw Sean Marshall threw a cutter into the swing of pinch-hitter Logan Forsythe, who tied it leading off the eighth with a homer.
Engaging Latos in an old-fashioned duel was Edinson Volquez, one of four players the Reds parted with to land the 6-foot-6 right-hander. On a roll of his own, Volquez struck out 10 Reds across seven innings, yielding a second-inning run on Chris Heisey's triple.
Facing a lineup that included Grandal and Yonder Alonso -- promising athletes the Reds sacrificed in the swap -- Latos blanked the Padres on four hits across seven innings, striking out eight.
Latos' nemesis was Alonso, who doubled, singled and walked. On each occasion, Latos used his mid-90s heater, slow curveball and changeup to escape, getting help from first-base umpire Brian Knight in the seventh on Cameron Maybin's head-first dive to first following Alonso's one-out double.
"Cameron sliding head-first sends a message," Grandal said. "You don't want to see your manager [Bud Black] get tossed [for disputing the call], but it started a fire for us."
Grandal, a strapping switch-hitter, homered in four of the six games he'd played on a productive Padres road trip. Hitless in three trips against Latos, he slashed a double to the wall in right leading off the ninth.
The Reds, who felt they needed a starter of Latos' stature to seize control of the intensely competitive National League Central, paid a hefty tab in Volquez, Grandal, Alonso and reliever Brad Boxberger, who has 40 strikeouts in 29 innings at Triple-A Tucson.
"I think this trade has benefitted both teams in the short term," Black said. "We'll see in the long term. Both teams got what they wanted. Cincinnati got a front-line pitcher they felt they needed, and we got depth and talent in a broad range of positions.
"I think both teams right now are happy."
Reds skipper Dusty Baker nodded in agreement.
"That's what trade means," Baker said. "In the dictionary, it doesn't say anything about rip-off, who won, who lost. A trade is supposed to help both sides. That's why in the old days they didn't trade in their own division -- so you wouldn't have to face a guy."
Baker was the centerpiece of a major deal following the 1975 season, moving from Atlanta to Los Angeles.
After a frustrating debut season in L.A. spent recovering from knee surgery, Baker exploded in 1977 and was a driving force for three National League pennant winners and a World Series champion in five years.
The Reds hope Latos can impact their fortunes in similar fashion as a co-ace along with Johnny Cueto. This was general manager Walt Jocketty's vision when he negotiated the blockbuster deal with Padres GM Josh Byrnes.
"That's what Walt was saying the whole time," Baker said. "Latos is a top-of-the-rotation guy. Volquez was a top-of-the-rotation guy, and it looks like he's approaching top-of-the-rotation [form] again.
"It's not easy to make trades. It's very difficult, in fact."
Unloading Baker, a 27-year-old rising star in center field and protégé of Hank Aaron, along with Ed Goodson, the Braves acquired established star Jimmy Wynn, Tom Paciorek, Lee Lacy and Jerry Royster.
"My first year in L.A. was rough, man," Baker said. "A lot of people weren't very happy that I hit only four home runs, and they let me know about it. But I turned things around" -- launching 30 homers in 1977, along with teammates Reggie Smith, Steve Garvey and Ron Cey, an unprecedented feat at the time -- "and we had a good run."
His personal experience gives Baker insights to share with Latos, who owned a 5.20 ERA as recently as June 18. Going 14 consecutive starts without a loss, he's 7-0 with a 3.52 ERA.
Moving from spacious Petco to the Reds' cozy yard, Latos has lost a margin for error but gained a new appreciation for precision. His focus on command has resulted in just 20 walks against 80 strikeouts during this 14-game stretch.
Baker communicates regularly with Latos, stressing the importance of not allowing others' opinions to disturb his focus.
"I'm trying to help him get better and be himself," Baker said, "and for us to accept him being himself. It's what makes the world go around. You want guys to be themselves."
If some people are Latos intolerant, well, Barry Bonds never was known as the easiest guy to get along with in his time. Baker made that work pretty well during their decade together in San Francisco.
"I never call him Mat," Baker said. "I call him Latos. I told him I've never known another Latos."
Latos certainly impressed the boss on this emotional occasion.
"He was spent," Baker said. "He left it all out there."