(Sports Network) - Burly right-hander Mat Latos starts for the third time in his career against Houston tonight when the San Diego Padres visit the Astros for the third test of a four-game weekend series at Minute Maid Park.
A 6-foot-6, 225-pounder, Latos emerged last season with a 14-10 record and strong 2.92 earned run average in 31 starts and 184 2/3 innings. He allowed just 150 hits and struck out 189 batters.
Latos started the year on the disabled list with a sore shoulder and made his season debut on Monday against Cincinnati. He absorbed the loss in that one and was touched for four hits and three runs in six innings.
In two career starts against Houston, the 23-year-old Virginian is 2-0 while allowing six hits and no runs - with 16 strikeouts - in 16 innings.
The Astros have managed just a .113 batting average in those games.
For the Astros, journeyman righty Nelson Figueroa tries to erase the struggling results of his initial two starts. The 36-year-old has been roughed up for 19 hits and 15 runs in his first 9 1/3 innings of 2011, losing a 12-4 verdict at Cincinnati and a 5-4 home decision to the Chicago Cubs.
Figueroa came into the season with 137 big-league appearances, but had never left spring training with a confirmed spot in a starting rotation.
He's faced the Padres twice overall, losing the lone decision while giving up eight hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings with a bloated 12.27 earned run average.
On Friday, Ryan Ludwick hit the tie-breaking two-run single in the seventh inning, helping the Padres defeat the Astros, 4-2, to split the first two games.
Aaron Harang (3-0) allowed one run on three hits and one walk while fanning eight in six innings for the Padres.
Michael Bourn went 2-for-4 with a run scored and a stolen base for Houston.
J.A. Happ (1-2) gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks. He also struck out three in a losing effort.