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Clayton Kershaw makes strong closing argument in All-Star case

Clayton Kershaw shook hands with his catcher for the first time this season.
Clayton Kershaw shook hands with his catcher for the first time this season.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw made his final start before the All-Star break on Wednesday night, and the Dodgers ace finished the "first half" in fine style, with a 13-strikeout shutout of the Phillies.

"It looked like the same old Clayton to me," manager Don Mattingly said.

Kershaw threw 21 curveballs on Wednesday, and 17 were strikes, per Brooks Baseball, and he finished off four of his 13 strikeouts with curves.

"I was throwing it for strikes, which was big," Kershaw said. "The last couple of starts the break was there but guys were laying off of it."

The game was Kershaw's 10th career game with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks, and his 13 strikeouts were Kershaw's second-most in a no-walk game, trailing only his no-hitter in 2014 against Colorado.

With 105 pitches through eight innings, Kershaw wanted to go back out for the ninth inning.

"It's a lot of run to finish a game. That's the goal every single time," Kershaw explained. "It helped out that I have a long time off right now going into the break. But throwing a complete game, shaking the guy's hand at the end of the game, that's what Sandy [Koufax] always said was the goal."

Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt debated in the dugout.

"It was something he wanted. I was a little torn. Rick and I were split on it. Rick wanted to let him go, I wanted him to save an inning's worth of bullets," Mattingly said. "He and Zack are our guys. We're going to let them roll at some point, and today was probably the best time to do it."

Kershaw ended with 123 pitches, his most since throwing 124 pitches in Game 1 of the 2013 NLDS against Atlanta. But with the All-Star break coming up, the earliest Kershaw will start again is Friday, July 17 in Washington D.C. against the Nationals, giving him at least eight days of rest in between starts.

Unless Kershaw is a late addition to the National League All-Star team.

Kershaw is one of five NL players up for the Final Vote. He could also be named as an injury replacement.

"I don't really care how I get to go. I have no pride in that," Kershaw said. "It's always an honor to get to go. I'd love to get to go, but if not I have a nice nine days off starting now."

Kershaw is in the Final Vote along with Johnny Cueto, Carlos Martinez, Troy Tulowitzki and Jeurys Familia. As of Wednesday at 5 a.m. PT, Cueto led with 4.7 million votes and Kershaw was fourth, but the top four were all within one percent of each other.

Cueto struck out 11 in a complete-game shutout for the Reds on Tuesday night. Kershaw asked if his shutout made an All-Star statement.

"I think Cueto did the same thing last night too. A lot of guys doing a lot of good things," Kershaw said. "Those final four guys, other than me, are great great players."

Kershaw's catcher was asked after the game why Kershaw deserved to be in the All-Star Game.

"He's the greatest pitcher on the planet," catcher A.J. Ellis said.

Up next

The Dodgers go for a series win on Thursday night, with Zack Greinke on the hill. Severino Gonzalez starts the series finale for the Phillies.