Coming off that nine-run mess in Coors Field, Kershaw did a complete turnaround and matched former NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy for seven scoreless innings in a game the Dodgers went on to win, 1-0, when a slumping Russell Martin walked with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth on a 3-2 pitch from former Dodger Duaner Sanchez.
With the win, the Dodgers are 8-0 at home, one win shy of the best start in Dodgers history set in 1946 in Brooklyn.
Kershaw's performance made this victory possible and was made more crucial because a bullpen already depleted by too many short starts suffered another blow during the game when Hong-Chih Kuo was uncatchable trying to warm up. He will go on the disabled list Saturday with yet another elbow injury.
"I loved it. He bit and scratched. The guy is going to be something special," manager Joe Torre said of Kershaw. "After his last game, to come back with such tenacity. What he did tonight, and who he did it against, with Peavy at the top of his game, he gave us the opportunity to win this game."
Torre and coaches Rick Honeycutt and Don Mattingly met with Kershaw before his between-starts bullpen session in San Francisco on Tuesday to review what went wrong in his 4 2/3-inning loss in Colorado and how to prevent it from happening again. Torre stressed not to let the game speed up and to rely on the keys that got Kershaw to the big leagues in the first place.
"It was just another step for the youngster," Torre said. "It seems so many pitchers, and not just young ones, go out, and if they don't have their best stuff, they don't know what to do. He settled in and found a way to get people out."
Kershaw translated that into a reliance on his 94-mph fastball, saying he threw only three changeups, with two going for hits.
"I don't think there was one reason for a rough start like that," Kershaw said. "But a lot of people have a tendency to try to change everything after something like that. Sometimes, you have to remember what you did to get here can get people out, too.
"The meeting, we just talked about throwing strikes, getting command of the fastball being the key. The fastball's going to be my bread and butter. The fastball dictates the game for me. It's what got me here to this point. Luckily, I also had a good feel for my curveball too."
Kershaw was more electrifying in his 13-strikeout performance against the Giants two weeks earlier, but this one was more difficult because he had no margin for error. Peavy allowed only two singles and the Dodgers didn't get a runner past first until the winning rally.
The Padres threatened with runners in scoring position in four of Kershaw's seven innings, but he escaped each time by getting hitters to hit his pitch. The biggest pitch he made was a breaking ball that induced a double-play grounder by Chase Headley with runners on first and second and no outs in the fourth inning.
"I made a quality pitch and he rolled over on a curveball," Kershaw said. "That where you try not to do too much."
Torre planned to remove Kershaw after the seventh at 99 pitches and initially had Kuo warming up, but Kuo made about 15 warmups, only four of which were catchable, with two of them sailing over the bullpen gate and rolling into the infield. Kuo was shut down, and Ronald Belisario quickly warmed up and entered for the top of the eighth. But with one out, he issued a walk to Brian Giles and hit Scott Hairston with a pitch, and Torre went with Will Ohman to face Adrian Gonzalez.
The night before, Gonzalez hit a tying double off Ohman, but this time, Ohman struck out Gonzalez, then got Headley on a forceout. Jonathan Broxton (3-0) struck out two in the ninth.
Rafael Furcal, still angry with himself for being unable to put down a sacrifice bunt the night before, atoned by starting the winning rally with a single. He was erased at second on Orlando Hudson's fielder's choice bunt and Hudson took second on a wild pitch to Manny Ramirez, who was walked intentionally. After James Loney struck out, Matt Kemp walked to load the bases.
On a 3-2 pitch that was high and outside, Martin checked his swing and first-base umpire Tim Timmons ruled he did not swing for ball four, forcing home Hudson.
"It was not the prettiest way to get the win, but it feels just as good," said Martin, who was 0-for-3 and hitting .198 at the time of the game-winning walk.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.