Published November 20, 2014
Aaron Harang was blissfully unaware his strikeouts were piling up until the crowd's excitement let him know how well he was pitching.
Harang set a Dodgers record with nine consecutive strikeouts, one short of the major league mark, and Los Angeles beat the San Diego Padres 9-8 Friday night on four straight walks in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer and Harang tied his career high with 13 strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings to help the Dodgers win their fourth in a row. They lead the majors with a 7-1 record, their best start since 1981 when they opened 9-1 and went on to win the World Series.
"You kind of get in that zone and you kind of become oblivious to everything around you, what's going on. It's hard to explain," said Harang, who avenged a loss at San Diego last Sunday.
"He was a little bit high-strung that day and needed to settle down," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He was excited to get out there today and show us he is better than his San Diego outing."
Chase Headley hit a tying, two-run homer with two outs in the ninth off Kenley Jansen (2-0), who walked Chris Denorfia to lead off the inning and struck out his next two batters.
Andrew Cashner (0-1) retired his first two batters in the bottom half before walking Mark Ellis, Kemp and James Loney. Joe Thatcher came in and walked Andre Ethier on four pitches to force in the winning run.
The Padres struck out 18 times, tying the most by a Dodgers pitching staff for a nine-inning game. Still, Los Angeles blew an 8-3 lead.
"It was a strange game," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "It started off with two guys pitching really well, and then the game got crazy. I'm sure the Dodgers felt pretty comfortable in the middle of the game. Then we dropped it on them in the ninth and they came back with a gift at the end."
Harang broke Johnny Podres' previous club mark by striking out nine consecutive batters after Cameron Maybin opened the game with a single on a night when the temperature dipped to 52 degrees after rain fell most of the day.
"I gave up that first hit and was trying to get out of the first inning and the next thing I know we're scoring all those runs in the bottom of the third," Harang said.
Harang and catcher A.J. Ellis had set a pregame goal of getting ahead of the hitters.
"He was on the attack all night long," Ellis said. "At six or seven (strikeouts), I started paying attention and checking out the board."
The streak ended when Will Venable homered leading off the fourth on a 3-1 pitch from against Harang. The right-hander, who pitched for the Padres last season, allowed four hits and four runs while walking four.
Podres had eight straight strikeouts against the Philadelphia Phillies on July 2, 1962.
Hall of Famer Tom Seaver set the major league record with 10 consecutive strikeouts for the New York Mets against the Padres on April 22, 1970. Seaver fanned the final 10 San Diego batters in that game.
Dodgers regular closer Javy Guerra had the night off after pitching three days in a row and earning five saves in a span of eight days.
Padres starter Clayton Richard allowed eight runs and six hits in six innings.
The Dodgers took a 4-0 lead in the third. Mark Ellis' infield single to second base scored two runs with two outs. Ethier's RBI single scored Ellis and Kemp, who walked.
After zipping through the first three innings, Harang sat longer than usual in the unseasonable cold while the Dodgers batted around in the bottom of the inning. He promptly gave up the homer to Venable before walking Headley, who scored on Yonder Alonso's double that left the Padres trailing 4-3.
"It threw me off a little bit," Harang said. "I kind of had to get loose again. With the cold weather, it was difficult."
The Dodgers extended their lead to 8-3 in the fourth. A.J. Ellis had an RBI double and Tony Gwynn Jr. added an RBI single before Kemp hit a two-run shot to center field, his third homer of the season.
The Padres trailed 8-6 after scoring three runs in the seventh. Pinch-hitter Denorfia had an RBI double, reliever Scott Elbert walked pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman with the bases loaded and Headley added a sacrifice fly.
NOTES: Dodgers bullpen coach Ken Howell will miss the team's upcoming six-game road trip because of diabetes-related issues. He'll be replaced by Jim Slaton, the team's pitching coach at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. ... The Dodgers are 4-1 against the Padres this season and have won 14 of their last 17 against their NL West rivals dating to last July 8. ... Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully missed his fourth consecutive game while recovering from a bad cold. The Dodgers said the 84-year-old Scully is improving and could return Saturday. ... The infield tarp was pulled on and off multiple times before the game started and neither team took batting practice.