It was 63 games in coming.
But the Mat Latos the Marlins thought they were getting in December when they acquired the pitcher in a deal with the Reds finally surfaced on Saturday.
Latos was dominating, turning in his most impressive outing to date by striking out 11 over seven innings as the Marlins won their third in a row with a 4-1 win over Colorado.
“That’s the guy we traded for,” said Marlins manager Dan Jennings, who helped orchestrate the deal when he was serving as general manager. “It’s good to see him at 100 percent, because I think you’re truly seeing now the Mat Latos that the Marlins traded for, and it’s a huge boost for us.”
Said Latos, who has dealt with leg injuries since spring training: “Feels good to have two legs under me, that’s for sure. It’s the most fun I’ve had.”
Latos was making his first start since going on the disabled list in late May with left knee inflammation. If his performance Saturday was indicative of the types of outings they can expect from Latos in the future, the Marlins can feel a bit more relieved about their chances.
“We made a trade to go get an experienced guy, who could do exactly what he did [Saturday],” Jennings said.
It was the first win for Latos in Miami as a Marlin, but it didn’t come without help in the form of Giancarlo Stanton, who continued on his hitting tear by driving in all four Marlins runs with a double and his 23rd homer.
“Big G, what can you say? Wow,” Jennings said. “This guy is on a great run right now.”
Stanton has now hit 10 homers over his past four games. He leads the majors in home runs and RBI with 55. If he can continue his current pace, he would finish with 59 home runs and 151 RBI, easily shattering Marlins team records.
“Just finally feeling comfortable,” Stanton said. “Not being tense up there. Just being relaxed.”
Stanton gave the Marlins a 2-0 lead in the first with a double that struck high off the wall in left-center, barely missing a home run by a few feet at most.
In the sixth, just after the Rockies had cut the lead to a run on Troy Tulowitzki’s RBI single, Stanton gave Latos and the Marlins some breathing room with a deep shot that hugged the left-field line but stayed fair.
Marlins closer A.J. Ramos, Stanton’s closest friend on the team, said it has reached a point where Stanton’s at-bats are can’t-miss moments. Ramos said that at one point Saturday, he needed to use the restroom but waited until he could watch Stanton take his turn at the plate.
“I might have peed a little bit in my pants just to watch him,” Ramos said.
Said Latos: “Thank God I’m not pitching against him.”
While Stanton was providing all the offensive support on a day in which the Marlins totaled only four hits, Latos was doing his thing on the mound.
With a fastball that touched 96 mph, Latos set the tone early, whiffing the first two Rockies he faced and wrapping up his outing in the seventh by punching out two more.
“I could tell the ball was jumping out of my hand,” Latos said. “Everything just felt strong.”
Said Jennings: “He had a great angle [Saturday] with his fastball. Good life in the strike zone.”
Latos said he didn’t necessarily feel a sense of relief for showing what he could do for the first time in front of a hometown crowd. His only previous win this season came in Washington on May 5.
“Not really a sense of relief,” Latos said. “I knew what I was capable of doing. It was just a matter of having two legs under me.”
It was left up to the bullpen to close out the win, as Sam Dyson, Mike Dunn and Ramos polished off the Rockies in the eighth and ninth. Ramos recorded his eighth save.