LOS ANGELES — All that Chase Headley’s home run did was end Clayton Kershaw’s scoreless streak at 41 innings. The San Diego Padres had only two other hits against the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
Odrisamer Despaigne allowed just two runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts over seven innings Thursday night in his fourth big league start. But the 27-year right-hander picked the wrong night to pitch, as the Padres lost 2-1 in the opener of a four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“He matched the best pitcher in baseball all the way through,” San Diego manager Bud Black said. “I thought his fastball was a little crisper than his previous two starts. I thought he pitched well with his fastball, had good location with it, good movement, got on some hitters.”
Despaigne (2-1) got his first chance to face Cuban countryman Yasiel Puig in the majors and held him to one hit in four at-bats — a line-drive double that caromed off Despaigne’s left leg and into left field in the fourth.
Scott Van Slyke hit a two-out single that drove in Puig from third, and Adrian Gonzalez knocked in the go-ahead run with sacrifice fly in the sixth after Headley tied it in the top half with his seventh homer.
“He looks like another competitive guy who’s never going to give in and knows how to make pitches,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said of Despaigne. “He showed us a lot tonight, and we know we’re going to be in for a big challenge the next time we face him. Surprise, surprise — another strong arm for 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.
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.”
Headley’s homer snapped the longest scoreless streak in the majors since Brandon Webb went 42 innings for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007.
“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.”
Ellis agreed with Kershaw that losing the game would have been much worse than losing his shutout streak.
“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.”
Kershaw 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).
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.
Kershaw earned his 14th complete game in 196 career starts, helping the defending NL West champions increase their division lead to one game over San Francisco.
Vying for his fourth straight major league ERA title, Kershaw highlighted his astounding streak with a no-hitter June 18 against Colorado. He limited the Rockies to two hits over eight innings in the rematch last Friday at Coors Field.
During his scoreless streak, Kershaw allowed 17 hits, struck out 52 batters, walked six and stranded 23 runners — four at third base. He also retired the leadoff hitter in 36 of those innings.
The previous run against Kershaw came on an RBI double by Arizona’s Aaron Hill in the third inning of Kershaw’s 4-3 win June 13 at Dodger Stadium. His next outing was the no-hitter.
NOTES: Padres 1B Tommy Medica grounded out his only time up and was replaced by Rene Rivera after feeling tightness in his groin. ... Puig said he faced Despaigne in Cuba, according to a Dodgers spokesman.