Forty-one innings after his scoreless streak began, Clayton Kershaw circled behind the mound, rubbed a new baseball, adjusted his pants and then brushed off the rubber.
Moments earlier, he was facing San Diego's Chase Headley. There were two outs in the sixth inning, and the Dodgers led 1-0. The count was 1-2.
For 27 days and slightly more than one hour, Kershaw hadn’t allowed a run to score. On his broadcast Thursday night, Vin Scully compared each flawless inning to a pearl in an ever-expanding necklace.
Kershaw tried an 88-mph slider, thigh-high, over the plate. The ball found Headley’s barrel. Dodgers center fielder Scott Van Slyke gave chase, but he ran out of space. The ball landed just over a Hyundai sign in left-center field.
The streak officially ends at 41 innings -- Major League Baseball does not count fractions of an inning.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Kershaw tied Luis Tiant for the fifth-longest streak in the expansion era, behind Dodgers Orel Hershiser and Don Drysdale as well as Bob Gibson and Brandon Webb.
The rare run allowed meant that, against impressive rookie right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne, the Dodgers needed more than one run for a change. It didn’t take long.
In the bottom half of the sixth, Adrian Gonzalez’s sacrifice fly scored Hanley Ramirez to put the Dodgers ahead of the Padres, 2-1.
Earlier, Van Slyke had flared a single to score Yasiel Puig in the fourth and give the Dodgers the lead.
Kershaw gave up only one more hit over the final three innings of the game. He pitched a complete game with 11 strikeouts and three hits.
The first five innings Thursday were the final brushstrokes on his 41-inning masterpiece.
In his 37th scoreless inning in a row, Kershaw threw nine consecutive strikes to start the game Thursday.
In his 38th, he didn’t throw a ball. He needed just six pitches. After the last one, a 74-mph, knee-buckling curveball, the crowd emitted an astonished “ooh.”
In his 40th, the ball didn’t make it out of the infield.
In what would have been the 42nd, as Kershaw paused behind the mound, the crowd rose and gave a standing ovation. They gave another after the inning as Kershaw walked off the field and looked at the dirt.
As they had during the streak, Kershaw’s teammates left him alone in the dugout, where he sat by himself.
His current scoreless streak stands at three innings.
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfandCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times