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SD@COL: Ludwick hits a three-run homer to left

DENVER -- While sitting on the bench in the visiting dugout at Coors Field on Sunday, not long after walking three of the first eight hitters he faced, Mat Latos had an epiphany of sorts.

Not just an epiphany, but a prospective solution to all that has troubled him on the mound since his last victory on Sept. 7 of last season.

"After the first inning, I sort of scratched my head ... thinking of things I might be doing wrong," said Latos, who raced up the stairs to the visiting clubhouse between innings to confirm on video what he felt he was doing wrong.

Latos liked what he saw, and a subsequent mechanical change helped turn around his day, as the Padres rolled to a 8-2 victory over the Rockies. A crowd of 38,109 saw San Diego (17-23) break open a close game with a five-run seventh inning.

What was the difference for Latos, who hadn't won in 11 decisions?

"It was just a mechanical issue that's been going on. I wasn't staying closed on my front shoulder," Latos said. "Before, [my shoulder] was flying open. Keeping it closed helps me not pull off on my slider, allows me to stay on top of my two-seamer [fastball] and it also makes me more direct to the plate."

Catcher Rob Johnson said the turnaround from where Latos was with his command early in the game to where he was after the video consultation was nothing short of stunning.

"I saw him locate well, he had a really good slider, he threw his curveballs for strikes and he spotted his changeup," Johnson said. "And he was able to throw his fastball inside. If you can do that, you're going to be effective.

"Hands-down this was his best start."

Latos (1-5) retired 12 of 14 hitters at one point on his way to an outing where he allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. He struck out five and didn't allow a walk after those first two rocky innings.

"It's a struggle that no one wants to go through," Latos said of his winless streak. "... It's something that happens in baseball. It's good to get this out of the way and get on track."

The last time Latos won was a start at PETCO Park against the Dodgers in the heat of a pennant race last September, and his victory helped the Padres maintain a one-game lead over the Giants.

Just to detail how long ago Latos' last victory was, David Eckstein, Miguel Tejada and Adrian Gonzalez all started that game, three players who are now long gone.

Latos dropped his final five starts of the 2010 season, tiring in the final month of the year, before opening this season with losses in five of his first six starts.

There have been signs that Latos was getting closer to finding the form that helped him to reach the 14-victory plateau in his first full Major League season, although his inability to string quality pitches together and the occasional lack of run support all conspired to keep him winless before Sunday.

"The game's really tough," Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta said of Latos. "You see good players go through tough stretches at times. It just kind of happens. You hate to see guys go through it. Myself, I've been through it."

Ryan Ludwick, who entered the game tied with Miguel Cabrera for the highest batting average (.417) at Coors Field among active players with 50 or more plate appearances, got the Padres offense rolling with a three-run home run off Jason Hammel (3-3) in the fourth inning, a hit that manager Bud Black said "picked Mat up."

"I feel like, average-wise, I haven't been good, but as for the run production ... it's still there," said Ludwick, who leads the team with six home runs and 23 RBIs.

He's not the only one who has been hitting on this road trip, though.

In the first six games of this road trip -- the Padres are 3-3 as they head to Arizona for a two-game series -- San Diego is hitting .333 as a team and is averaging 7.6 runs a game. They have looked nothing like the team that was shut out eight times in their first 23 games.

The Rockies (20-18), who dropped two-of-three games in this series, felt the brunt of the Padres' offense, allowing 24 runs and 32 hits in the three games.

"You look at this road trip and how we're swinging it, it's not just one guy," Ludwick said. "We're stringing some stuff together."

That was obvious in the seventh inning when the Padres made sure Latos would end his funk, scoring five runs on six hits, including five hits in a row. Jason Bartlett had a two-run double in the inning to help break open what had been a 3-2 game.

"We've shown a propensity to [score] late," Black said.

As for Latos, Black saw some very encouraging signs, most of which had to do with Latos' ability to bunch together good pitches, something he hadn't been able to do much of in his first six starts of the season.

"I think this takes some weight off his shoulders," Black said. "It's one game, but I hope this will let him exhale."

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