SAN DIEGO — As a hitter, Clayton Kershaw says he really only has one goal — be difficult. “Try to compete and make them throw a ton of pitches,” he explained this spring.
Kershaw worked an eight-pitch walk with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth inning, forcing in the first run of the game in a 2-0 Dodgers victory over the San Diego Padres Saturday night at Petco Park.
The Dodgers’ eighth consecutive win was also their fourth shutout in that time and guaranteed a series win in their first head-to-head meeting with the Padres this season.
With the universal DH likely to be adopted permanently next year, Saturday’s game might have been one of the last of its kind — a pitchers’ duel settled by two pitchers dueling.
Padres starter Yu Darvish retired the first 14 Dodgers in order, five of the first seven on strikeouts, before a breaking pitch clipped Zach McKinstry’s foot with two outs in the fifth to end the perfect run. Luke Raley followed with the first — and only in his seven innings — hit off Darvish, a single to center field, and Austin Barnes drew a walk to load the bases.
That brought up Kershaw who has been annoying enough in his career to collect 107 hits and walk 34 times over 14 years.
Darvish made it easy on him at first, missing with a pair of cutters to start the at-bat. Kershaw took a strike then fouled off three in a row with defensive swings aimed at doing nothing but extending the at-bat.
He took ball three high and outside then ball four off the plate.Kershaw was even better at his real job.
He had his good slider, using it to finish off each of his five strikeouts in the first three innings. He walked Wil Myers and gave up a single to Trent Grisham but allowed just one other baserunner in the first five innings — and that one got under his skin.
With two outs in the fourth, Kershaw popped a 92-mph fastball past Jurickson Profar for strike three and headed for the dugout. But Profar had chopped awkwardly at the pitch as it passed him by and clipped Barnes’ glove in the process.
After a replay review, Profar was awarded first base on catcher’s interference. But first he and Kershaw exchanged verbal fire from across the diamond, Kershaw suggesting loudly that Profar was guilty of “a (expletive) swing” and Profar waving him off from first base with his own vulgarity.
The exchange prompted both dugouts to empty — apparently a nightly requirement now in this rivalry.
Nothing more came of that but Kershaw did need his teammates to have his back again in the bottom of the sixth.
The Padres got runners at the corners with one out when Wil Myers shot a ground ball through the middle, under Kershaw’s glove and skipping off the mound. But second baseman Chris Taylor was stationed to the left of second base. He swallowed up the ground ball and turned an inning-ending double play.
Since his loss on Opening Day in Colorado, Kershaw has allowed one run in 19 innings with an 18-inning scoreless streak going into his next start.
Justin Turner gave the bullpen a little extra cushion with a solo home run in the ninth inning off Padres reliever Emilio Pagan. Turner is off to one of the best starts of any hitter in baseball with a .426 average (23 for 54), five home runs, 16 RBI and a 1.281 OPS through the first 15 games.
Victor Gonzalez got the last two outs but Mookie Betts got the save — a diving catch of Tommy Pham’s line drive to end the game. Betts just beat the ball to the grass. Had it dropped in, two runs would have scored to tie the game.