LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw was stellar, again, in his final start before the All-Star break, pitching his third complete game of the year, striking out 11 in a win over the Padres on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.
Now that Kershaw's next start for the Dodgers won't come until July 18 at the earliest, the ultra-focused ace can turn his attention to Target Field in Minnesota, where he will pitch in his fourth straight All-Star Game on Tuesday night.
"Now I can start thinking about it," Kershaw said after the game.
Kershaw has as good a case as any to start the game, building a resume that looks just as good if not better than any of his last three seasons, which saw him finish first, second and first in National League Cy Young voting. Here are some Kershaw numbers at the All-Star break in each of the last four years:
- 2011: 9-4, 3.03 ERA, 147 strikeouts, 35 walks
- 2012: 6-5, 2.91 ERA, 119 strikeouts, 32 walks
- 2013: 8-6, 1.98 ERA, 139 strikeouts, 35 walks
- 2014: 11-2, 1.78 ERA, 126 strikeouts, 13 walks
Did I mention Kershaw missed five weeks this year on the disabled list?
While Kershaw would certainly be deserving of the start on Tuesday, don't be surprised if he doesn't get the nod. Mike Matheny, manager of the National League pennant-winning Cardinals, manages the NL squad, and his own ace Adam Wainwright is having a typically excellent season.
Wainwright is 11-4 with a 1.79 ERA with 111 strikeouts and 27 walks, and has pitched 35 more innings than Kershaw this season. He would be a worthy choice to start Tuesday, no matter the manager or team affiliation.
Don Mattingly gave the politically correct answer when asked who he would start in the All-Star Game, and even took it a step further.
"If I'm Mike Matheny I probably start my own guy, but if I'm me I start my guy," Mattingly said. "If I'm Bud Black I'm starting [Odrisamer] Despaigne."
Kershaw has pitched scoreless innings in each of his previous three All-Star Game appearances. The difference in starting or pitching in relief would likely be pitching two innings on Tuesday instead of one. Kershaw said he was ready for anything in Minnesota.
"Whatever Mike decides is fine with me. I'm just happy to get to be going," Kershaw said. "Just getting to go with three teammates, that's pretty cool."
The Dodgers try for a second straight win, with Dan Haren on the mound in his final start before the All-Star break. Haren will make his 335th career start on Friday night, while Padres rookie Jesse Hahn makes his seventh major league start for San Diego.