LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw takes his 36-inning scoreless streak into Thursday night's series opener against the Padres at Dodger Stadium. The two top scoreless streaks in baseball history both belong to Dodgers, with Orel Hershiser's 59 innings in 1988 surpassing Don Drysdale's 58 innings in 1968.
But there is one more Dodgers streak still ahead of Kershaw, but in play for the left-hander on Thursday night. Don Newcombe had a 39-inning scoreless streak for Brooklyn in 1956.
Newcombe was an established star for the Dodgers by 1956, the year he turned 30. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1949 and made the National League All-Star team in four of his first five seasons, interrupted only by missing the 1952 and 1953 seasons with military service.
He was 11-5 with a 3.74 ERA in the first half in 1956, and didn't make the All-Star team. But he finished the season 16-2 with a 2.64 ERA in 21 games, including 20 starts, after the break, to capture both NL MVP honors and the first Cy Young Award, then a major league award.
Newcombe's streak began against the Reds on July 25 at Ebbets Field, the site of all 39 scoreless innings. In the top of the third inning, rookie Frank Robinson hit a solo home run, his 22nd of the season on his way to tying a major league record with 38 home runs as a rookie. Newcombe allowed only three singles the rest of the way, retiring 19 of his final 22 batters faced, earning his fifth straight win when Duke Snider hit a walk-off home run off Brooks Lawrence in the ninth inning.
Four days later, Newcombe shutout the Cubs on five hits. The Dodgers won 1-0 in the first game of a doubleheader, with the only run a home run by shortstop Pee Wee Reese in the eighth inning off Jim Davis (not the Garfield author).
The streak was at 15.
On Aug. 2, Newcombe struck out 10 Braves in a four-hit shutout, winning 3-0 behind home runs by Carl Furillo and Roy Campanella. Newcombe walked none, and didn't allow more than one runner to reach base in any one inning.
After two starts on three days rest, Newcombe took the mound on Aug. 7 against the Pirates on four days rest but the result was the same. He shutout Pittsburgh on six hits while walking two and striking out six. Newcombe was helped out by a pair of double plays, and backed by a two-run home run from Snider in another 3-0 Dodgers win.
It was the third straight shutout for Newcombe, the only Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher to do so dating back to at least 1914. Newcombe also had three consecutive shutouts as a rookie in 1949, part of a 31-inning scoreless streak.
After his shutout of the Pirates, Newcombe's streak was now 33 innings, setting a new career high.
Newcombe entered his Aug. 11 game against the Phillies with not only a scoreless streak but an eight-start winning streak, was even better against Philadelphia. He faced the minimum 18 batters through six innings, allowing only a leadoff walk in the third inning to Granny Hamner, who was erased on a double play.
Richie Ashburn tried to bunt for a hit to open the seventh, but popped out to catcher Dixie Howell. Marv Blalock ended the no-hit bid after 6⅓ innings with a single, then Stan Lopata took Newcombe deep to end the streak at 39 innings.
Newcombe did finish the game without allowing another hit, winning his ninth straight start with his sixth consecutive complete game, improving to 18-5 with a 2.97 ERA, the first time his ERA was under 3.00 since May 8.
Kershaw needs three scoreless innings to catch Newcombe and four to pass him. In 13 starts this season, Kershaw has began with at least three scoreless innings nine times and has started with at least four scoreless innings seven times.