LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers continued their best start in more than three decades Friday, beating the San Diego Padres 9-8 before 31,601 at Dodger Stadium to improve their record to 7-1. The game ended on a bases-loaded walk by Andre Ethier to force in the winning run with two outs in the ninth, his 12th career walkoff RBI.
It is the Dodgers' hottest beginning to a season since 1981, when they started 9-1 and went on to win the World Series. Dodgers pitchers combined to strike out 18 batters, tying a franchise record they now have reached six times, most recently on June 4, 1990.
The Dodgers got a stellar performance from veteran right-hander Aaron Harang, who tied his career high with 13 strikeouts, and a two-run homer from center fielder Matt Kemp. Ethier and Mark Ellis also drove in two runs each.
But Kenley Jansen, who normally pitches in an eighth-inning setup role, was called on to close it out because Javy Guerra had pitched each of the three previous days, and Jansen failed to close it out, giving up a two-run, game-tying homer to Padres third baseman Chase Headley to erase what was left of what at one time had been a five-run Dodgers lead.
Going streaking. Harang set a new franchise record by striking out nine consecutive batters after giving up a leadoff single to Cameron Maybin to begin the game. Harang broke the previous mark of eight consecutive strikeouts by Johnny Podres on July 2, 1962 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Harang fell one strikeout short of the major league record of 10 in a row, set by Hall of Famer Tom Seaver for the New York Mets on April 22, 1970, also against the Padres.
Seizing the moment. Making his first start of the season at shortstop (and his second overall) while Dee Gordon took a night off, Justin Sellers kicked off four-run rallies in both the third and fourth innings, leading off the third with a walk and beginning the fourth with a double to the wall in left-center. Sellers scored both times. Later, with two outs in the eighth, Sellers fell behind reliever Brad Brach 0-and-2 before working Brach for an 11-pitch walk. Sellers hadn't reached base in any of his four previous plate appearances this season.
Forcing the issue. Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach made his contribution to the cause on a critical play in the third, turning what might have been an inning-ending groundout into a two-run single. When Ellis hit a grounder up the middle, Padres second baseman Orlando Hudson went into the hole to snare it, then made a one-hop throw to first, giving Ellis just enough time to beat it out. With two outs, Wallach never hesitated to wave trail runner A.J. Ellis around, and Ellis slid in just ahead of the throw from first baseman Yonder Alonso.
Try decaf. Todd Coffey faced three batters in the seventh inning without recording an out, giving up a single, a double and a hit batsman. He wound up being charged with two runs, as well as allowing an inherited runner to score, and his ERA through three appearances for the Dodgers jumped to 36.00. With Ted Lilly due to come off the disabled list and start Saturday night's game, it wouldn't be terribly shocking if Coffey, who has a guaranteed one-year, $1.3 million contract, were to come down with some physical issue just in time to go onto the disabled list and clear a roster spot for Lilly.
Patient much? Leading off the fifth inning against Padres lefty Clayton Richard, Ethier, who finally appears to be getting comfortable against left-handers, worked Richard for an impressive, seven-pitch walk. So what did Juan Uribe do when he followed Ethier to the plate, knowing that Richard might be struggling to find the strike zone? Why, he grounded into an easy, 6-4-3 double play on the very first pitch, of course, immediately snuffing out a potential Dodgers rally.
No-shows (again). The Dodgers announced, with an organizational straight face, that there were 31,601 in the house. There were not. Unless, as one of the late, great, long-ago inhabitants of the press box used to say, they were all out taking a smoke break.