LOS ANGELES (AP) — Facing a shortened pitch count, Clayton Kershaw didn't waste any time going after his 300th strikeout.
He struck out seven of the 13 batters he faced to become the first pitcher in 13 years to reach the mark, while the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Diego Padres 6-3 Sunday to close the regular season on a four-game winning streak.
"It's definitely a cool thing," Kershaw said. "Obviously not the most important thing in the world. If my pitch count got there and I didn't have 300, I would have come out. Being fresh for the playoffs is more important than 300 strikeouts."
Kershaw finished with 301 strikeouts and joined former Arizona teammates Randy Johnson (2000-02) and Curt Schilling (2002) as the only pitchers since 2000 to reach 300 strikeouts in a season. Kershaw became the second to do so in Dodgers history; his mentor Sandy Koufax accomplished the feat three times in the mid-1960s.
"I know it meant a lot to him even though he lied and said it probably didn't before," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "Clayton's game plan usually includes a lot of two-strike counts. You get two strikes, you're going to call the best option and his best option usually has a strikeout potential attached to it."
Kershaw allowed two hits and no walks on 60 pitches over 3 2/3 scoreless innings. The left-hander completed his final tune-up before the Dodgers open the NL Division Series against the New York Mets at home Friday. He is likely to start Game 1 against Jacob deGrom and the NL East champions, although the Dodgers have yet to announce their rotation.
"Another special season for Clayton," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He just keeps marching along. It was good to see him get it quick."
Kershaw struck out Melvin Upton Jr. to start the game, one of two strikeouts he notched in each of the first three innings. He reached 300 on a swinging strikeout of Upton to end the third, earning a standing ovation.
"I was not happy about it," Upton said, laughing. "He's a good pitcher, man, and there's a reason he's got that many strikeouts. He's just a guy you've got to be aggressive with, and if he makes a mistake, you can't miss it."
Kershaw left the game with two outs in the fourth, tipping his cap to the crowd of 42,863 that rose to its feet again. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, serving as manager for the day while wearing a jersey with the name of retired manager Tom Lasorda, came out to remove Kershaw.
"I'm sitting there like, 'It's over my head, Clayton,'" Rollins said, recounting their discussion. "He was like, 'Really, they sent you out here to get me?' I'm like 'Yeah,' so he handed me the ball and punched me in the chest."
Kershaw had yelled at manager Don Mattingly in the dugout after he was pulled earlier than he wanted in a recent game. This time, Kershaw was smiling when Rollins arrived.
"Kersh came out easy for him," Mattingly said, jokingly. "He was smiling out there. It's not even right."
Kershaw replied, "I wouldn't give Jimmy a hard time on his first day managing."
Joc Pederson hit a two-run homer in the second inning to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. Corey Seager added a solo shot on the first pitch by Jon Edwards leading off the sixth and then with two outs, pinch-hitter Chris Heisey had a two-run homer for a 5-0 lead.
Travis Jankowski drew the Padres to 5-3 with a three-run homer off reliever Luis Avilan in the seventh after Juan Nicasio gave up consecutive one-out singles to Austin Hedges and Alexi Amarista.
The Dodgers concluded with a 55-26 home record, tying the 1980 team (55-27) for the most home wins since the franchise moved west in 1958. Their .679 home winning percentage was the best in Los Angeles history and fifth-best in franchise history.
Joel Peralta (3-1) won with one inning of relief, and Chris Hatcher pitched the ninth for his fourth save in six chances. Closer Kenley Jansen served as pitching coach for the day.
San Diego's Frank Garces (0-1) gave up two runs and two hits in two innings of his first major league start. The left-hander, who pitched in 40 games this season, struck out two and walked one as the Padres used their finale to check out their relievers for next season.
"We expected a lot more out of ourselves, but we weren't able to stay healthy all year," Upton said. "We had some goals that we set at the All-Star break and I think we lived up to them. We just want to take all the positives out of this year and carry them over into next season."
The Dodgers (92-70) surpassed 90 wins for the third consecutive season, having gone 94-68 a year ago. Their won their third straight NL West title to make the postseason for the third straight year, a first for the storied franchise.
The Dodgers led the majors in attendance for the third straight year, drawing 3,764,815. They ended the regular season with the third-highest total in club history, trailing only last season (3,782,337) and 2007 (3,857,036). Their average attendance of 46,479 also topped the majors.
Padres: OF Justin Upton didn't play after straining his neck last Wednesday while running headfirst into a padded wall in left field. OF Wil Myers and OF Matt Kemp also sat out.
Dodgers: OF Yasiel Puig got treatment on his right hamstring a day after coming off the DL. He entered as a defensive replacement in the fourth inning Sunday and went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts after starting and getting a hit Saturday.
With three home runs on the last day of the regular season, the Dodgers (187) passed the Rockies (186) to lead the NL in homers for the first time since 1983.
The Padres lost five of their final six games to finish with a 74-88 record, including 35-46 on the road. Bud Black was fired as manager during the season and replaced by interim Pat Murphy, whom the Padres said after the game would not be returning.
"Obviously we weren't winning when he took over and we didn't play that well for him," second baseman Jedd Gyorko said. "It's tough losing and I'm sure it was tough for him."
Padres: They completed the franchise's fifth consecutive losing season.
Dodgers: They open the NLDS against the New York Mets at home Friday.
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