LOS ANGELES – One pitch was all that prevented Clayton Richard and the San Diego Padres from beating Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers on a night when the reigning NL Cy Young winner had to struggle to get from one inning to the next.
Richard gave up a two-run homer to Mark Ellis in the sixth inning, two batters after the Dodgers sent up a pinch-hitter for Kershaw with San Diego ahead 1-0. Ellis' towering drive just inside the left field pole sent the Padres to a 2-1 loss Friday night, extending their losing streak to four games.
"It should have been down, but it was up a little bit and he put a good swing on it," Richard said of the 1-2 pitch. "It's disappointing to throw well and just come up a little bit short."
Richard (6-10) allowed two runs and five hits in 7 1-3 innings. The left-hander did not walk a batter for the third time in four starts, but has surrendered at least one home run in each of his last five outings.
"He's throwing strikes, which is great. So I'd much rather have that," manager Bud Black said. "Catfish Hunter gave up a lot of home runs, but won a lot of games. I think any manager or pitching coach would tell you to that if you keep the walks down and keep throwing strikes, you'll be way more successful than you will the other way."
Richard didn't get to pitch after the All-Star break last year because of a shoulder strain that led to season-ending surgery on July 29. But this season, he and Edinson Volquez are the only Padres pitchers who haven't missed a turn in the rotation. Seven other starters are currently on the disabled list — Tim Stauffer, Micah Owings, Cory Luebke, Andrew Cashner, Anthony Bass, Joe Wieland, and Eric Stults.
"I just want to continue to progress and keep on getting better as a starting pitcher, get deep into games and give our team a chance to win," Richard said. "If you can do that, more often than not you're going to come out on top. Unfortunately, tonight wasn't one of those nights."
Kershaw (7-5) allowed a run, six hits and three walks while striking out six. The 24-year-old left-hander, who threw 27 pitches during his one-inning scoreless stint in Tuesday's All-Star game, worked with runners on base in every inning and stranded eight before calling it a night after 110 pitches with the Dodgers trailing 1-0. Tony Gwynn Jr. batted for him and led off the pivotal rally with a bunt single.
"I didn't want to get pinch-hit for. I wanted to keep going, obviously, but I understand the situation," Kershaw said. "I definitely threw more pitches in the All-Star game than I would have liked, but I felt fine tonight.
"I felt like I was throwing my fastball pretty good, but I just threw too many pitches. Six innings and 110 pitches, that's never what you want to do. But give them some credit. They had some good at-bats and had guys on base all night, so I had to continue to make pitches."
Javy Guerra and Ronald Belisario both pitched a scoreless inning and Kenley Jansen worked a hitless ninth for his 16th save in 19 attempts.
Before the game, the Dodgers reinstated center fielder Matt Kemp and right fielder Andre Ethier off the disabled list. Kemp was 2 for 4 with a double after missing 51 of the previous 53 games because of a left hamstring strain. Ethier, sidelined since June 28 because of an oblique strain on his left side, was 0 for 2 and got hit by a pitch following a two-game rehab stint with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga during the All-Star break.
Ethier acknowledged how much impact Kemp batting behind Ellis had on his fateful at-bat.
"You can see what a difference it makes having a guy like Matty in that lineup to help the guys in front of him," Ethier said. "Tonight he had two hits, and you see how it changes the game when you see him on deck. So you've got to be around the zone more with Mark up because you don't want to put another guy on base for Matt."
The Padres scratched out a run in the second after Yasmani Grandal led off with a bloop double to left-center that Kemp inadvertently kicked toward the infield after attempting to short-hop the ball. Grandal scored on a groundout by Everth Cabrera.
"In one of these kind of games, you hope that your guy gets the W or a no-decision with us getting the win," Black said. "Both Claytons pitched great, but their Clayton was on the winning side because he continued to bear down and we just couldn't break through and get the key hit."
NOTES: Richard's only nine-inning complete game in the majors was at Los Angeles on Sept. 21, 2010, when he scattered eight hits in a 6-0 victory to mathematically eliminate the Dodgers from playoff contention. ... Ethier is 3 for 25 lifetime against Richard. ... Kemp and Ethier have homered in the same game twice this season, both against the Padres — a 6-1 win on April 14 and an 8-4 loss on April 8. ... Last season after the All-Star break, Kershaw was 12-1 with a 1.31 ERA in 14 starts. ... Padres CF Cameron Maybin made a diving backhanded catch in left-center to rob Ellis of extra bases leading off the fifth.