Clayton Kershaw's no-hitter was just one of his many eye-popping performances since the beginning of June, so it seems unfair that his next start is against a team that was no-hit two weeks ago and owns the worst offense in the majors.
Kershaw brings a 36-inning scoreless streak and seven-start winning streak into the Los Angeles Dodgers' Thursday night matchup with the visiting San Diego Padres, whom he blanked for seven innings the last time he faced them.
The reigning and two-time NL Cy Young Award winner has been putting up video-game numbers. Kershaw has a 0.69 ERA during his win streak, allowing 28 hits and five walks while striking out 69 over 52 innings.
The left-hander hasn't allowed a run since the third inning against Arizona on June 13. Kershaw (10-2, 1.85 ERA) gave up two hits over eight innings Friday in a 9-0 win over Colorado, the team against which he pitched his no-hitter June 18.
That pushed his scoreless stretch to 36 innings, passing Sandy Koufax (33 in 1963), Orel Hershiser (33 2-3, 1984), Don Sutton (35, 1972) and Fernando Valenzuela (35, 1981) into fourth place on the franchise list.
Next up is Don Newcombe (39, 1956), followed by Don Drysdale (58, 1968) and Hershiser (MLB-record 59, 1988).
"You don't ever want to give up a run," Kershaw said. "I guess that's the goal."
Catcher A.J. Ellis said Kershaw's offspeed pitches have fueled his success.
"He's keeping both breaking balls down in the zone," Ellis told MLB's official website. "He would have an 'A' slider but a 'C' or 'D' curve, or an 'A' curve but a 'C' or 'D' slider. Now they're both electric strikeout pitches.
"That's why he's having strikeout totals unmatched in his career. You see a lot of clubs attacking early in the count, first-pitch swinging with a chance of getting a hit. If they don't, he stays in the game longer."
The Dodgers (51-42) could use another shutdown start from Kershaw after losing three of their last four on a six-game trip. Los Angeles was swept by Detroit in a two-game series, falling 4-1 on Wednesday.
This will be Kershaw's last outing before the All-Star break, putting him in line to possibly start for the NL in Minnesota on Tuesday night. He's 9-6 with a 2.47 ERA in 21 starts against the Padres, holding them to three hits while striking out 10 in a 4-0 win Sept. 21.
San Diego (40-51) has been just as bad offensively this season.
The Padres are last in the majors with 272 runs and a .216 batting average, and they've dropped four of five after Wednesday's 6-3 loss in Colorado. They were no-hit by Tim Lincecum in San Francisco on June 25.
"If you were to ask, 'if you had one guy to start a game, who would it be?' It would probably be (Kershaw)," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It's just a dominating package of pitches."
San Diego will also be sending a pitcher to the mound who has stifled opponents lately. Odrisamer Despaigne has gone 2-0 with a 0.92 ERA since being called up June 23, becoming the first pitcher in team history to throw at least six innings and allow one run or fewer in each of his first three career starts.
The right-hander gave up one run and two hits over six innings in Saturday's 5-3, 10-inning loss to San Francisco. However, he walked four for the second straight outing.
"I think he was trying to be more perfect with his pitches," catcher Yasmani Grandal said. "As he goes along, he'll learn a little bit more how to use that fastball."