LOS ANGELES (AP) — Clayton Kershaw and batterymate A.J. Ellis were in agreement for nine innings, especially on one specific point: Losing the game would be much worse than seeing the Los Angeles Dodgers' ace lose his scoreless innings streak.
Chase Headley snapped Kershaw's streak at 41 innings with a tying homer in the sixth, but the two-time Cy Young Award winner finished with a three-hitter and 11 strikeouts in a 2-1 victory Thursday night over the San Diego Padres.
Kershaw (11-2) won his eighth straight start and came within 18 innings of the major league record set by Dodgers right-hander Orel Hershiser, who threw 59 consecutive shutout innings in 1988.
"I was barely thinking about the streak at all, and I know he wasn't," Ellis said. "I mean, we weren't close to anything that was worth starting to get excited about. We were more disappointed that the game was tied. So we had to bear down, keep the game where it was and hope we could scratch out another run."
Headley's seventh homer halted the longest scoreless streak in the majors since Brandon Webb went 42 innings for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007.
Kershaw's run tied Luis Tiant for the fifth-longest in the expansion era (since 1961).
"It was over the fence, so it was a mistake — and it tied the game," Kershaw said. "When it's a game like that, one mistake can kill you. Fortunately for me, that one mistake didn't."
The 26-year-old lefty became the third pitcher in the last 100 years to win eight straight starts in one season while striking out at least seven batters in each one. The others were Sandy Koufax (1966) and Juan Marichal (1967).
"It doesn't get more competitive than him," Ellis said. "He's every adjective you could think of. He's unique, special, just amazing out there. There's just a relentless will to win. He imposes his will on the opposing team."
Kershaw faced the Padres for the first time this season. Last year, he was 1-3 with a 3.33 ERA in four starts against them.
"He was tough all night," Headley said. "He threw me a slider that didn't have a whole lot on it. It stayed out over the plate and I was able to put a good swing on it. But he was tremendous again. He showed why he's one of the best pitchers in the game. It seems like he's throwing his breaking pitches more. Last year was more fastball and slider."
Kershaw missed five weeks because of a strained muscle in his upper back following his opening-day victory against the Diamondbacks in Australia. But he has a 1.98 ERA in 14 starts, giving him his most wins and lowest ERA before the All-Star break in his seven-year career.
"I think there's some level of consistency with my pitches," he said. "I'm just repeating my delivery and I know where the ball's going."
Headed to his fourth All-Star game in a row, Kershaw seems a strong choice to start the Midsummer Classic on regular rest Tuesday night in Minnesota.
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