Latos denied a win by shaky bullpen

Mat Latos

Eugene, OR – What was once the Eugene Emeralds strength has suddenly become their weakness. The Ems began the season on a tear, leading the Northwest League in pitching by sporting a 2.67 ERA in June and a 3.13 ERA in July. Since then, Eugene's masterful pitching stroke has disappeared as the team has gone 6-12 in August.

Although the Ems have posted a league worst 6.55 ERA during that time, their one shining exception had been Mat Latos. Latos gave up six runs in less than three innings of work in a start against Boise on August 3, but has been nearly unhittable since, giving up one run off five hits while striking out six in 10 innings.

"He's made great progress and that's what we're looking for at the rookie level. We're looking for guys to improve, especially the last few times he's been out, he's been tremendous," manager Greg Riddoch said.

Latos continued his mercurial streak against the Everett Aquasox, posting five more shutout innings in leaving Sunday afternoon's game with a 5-0 lead. Eugene's bullpen was unable to hold on, though, and combined to give up six runs as the Emeralds lost 6-5 in front of 2,666 fans at Civic Stadium.

The Emeralds continued a trend in their homestand against Everett, scoring first in their third consecutive game. Kellen Kulbacki got the Ems on the scoreboard in the second inning with a solo-homerun hit to right field against Doug Salinas. The shot was Kulbacki's second homerun in three games and fourth total of the season.

The Ems continued to pressure Salinas in the second, netting three consecutive singles by Robbie Blauer, Lance Zawadzki, and Justin Pickett. Eugene was unable to capitalize, as Blauer hesitated on Pickett's hard line drive to left field and was thrown out at third. Although the Ems were able to load the bags when Brad Chalk drew a base on balls, Salinas was able to get Luis Durango to pop out to centerfield, ending the threat.

The Emeralds got a second chance against Salinas in the fourth, once again loading the bases on three consecutive singles. Chalk was able to take advantage of runners in scoring position this time, dropping a double into the left field gap that scored two runs. The hit was Chalk's first extra base hit and brought in his first two RBIs in seven games with the Emeralds since being called up from the Rookie League Peoria Padres.

The Ems were not finished against Salinas, as Durango followed up with a two-run double of his own to lift Eugene to an early 5-0 lead.

With Latos gone, Everett found their stride against Eugene's relievers, storming back in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings.

Matt Handley ran into trouble facing the meat of Everett's lineup as he gave up a leadoff single to Edilio Colina in the sixth. Greg Halman immediately followed, blasting his team-leading 12th homerun of the season to put the Aquasox on the board, 5-2. Halman's dinger lifts him from a tie for second place in NWL homeruns.

Jackson Quezada fared no better in relief of Handley, giving up back-to-back singles to start the seventh. Colina laid down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position while Halman hit a slow chopper to shortstop, bringing in a run. Quezada then sent a wild pitch over Pickett's head to score the runner from third and bring the Sox within one.

Quezada gave up a single to open the eighth, only to be relieved by Colt Hynes, who then gave up a two-run homer to Kalian Sams that lifted the Sox to a 6-5 advantage. Hynes (2-2) finished by working a scoreless ninth and took the loss for Eugene.

The Emeralds were never able to find a groove against Nick Hill (1-3), who relieved Salinas to pitch five innings of shutout ball while striking out 10 to earn the win.

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