A.J. Ellis said it before the Dodgers’ 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday and he said it again after: Clayton Kershaw deserves to pitch in the All-Star game.
“He’s the best pitcher on the planet,” Ellis said.
Kershaw had the kind of game Wednesday night that supported the catcher’s claims, pitching his first complete game in 18 starts this season.
Kershaw lowered his earned-run average to 2.85. He struck out a season-high 13 batters. He pitched to 36 batters and threw only 31 balls.
Ellis did his part to ensure his close friend wouldn’t be compromised by the inconsistent Dodgers offense again, collecting three hits and hitting a second-inning home run that accounted for the team’s first two runs.
Kershaw, who improved to 6-6, was pleased that Manager Don Mattingly allowed him to finish his last start before the All-Star break.
He recalled how Sandy Koufax told him the workday of a pitcher is completed after he shakes his catcher’s hand at the end of the day.
“That’s the goal,” Kershaw said.
Kershaw can still be on the National League All-Star team, either as the winner of a fan vote for the final roster spot or as an injury replacement.
As the league’s reigning most valuable player and Cy Young Award winner continued to wait to find out whether he would be part of the All-Star festivities, Joc Pederson confirmed he would participate in the home run derby, which will take place Monday. Pederson was selected to the NL All-Star team as a reserve.
“Just to be a part of the home run derby is something you kind of dream about as a little kid, you know?” Pederson said. “You watch all the great home run hitters, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, all these great guys who participated.”
The rookie center fielder also mentioned Ken Griffey Jr., a three-time champion.
Pederson, who leads the Dodgers with 20 home runs, is seeded fourth in the eight-player field. He will face fifth-seeded Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles in the opening round of a three-round head-to-head tournament.
Pederson and Machado will share the stage with Albert Pujols of the Angels, Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds, Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays, Prince Fielder of the Texas Rangers, and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs.
Mattingly offered no concerns about Pederson’s participation, saying he doesn’t believe the event affects the swings of hitters.
Pitching to Pederson at the Home Run Derby will be Johnny Washington, a coach at triple-A Oklahoma City.
Washington was Pederson’s hitting coach in rookie league.
“He’s been with me since day one,” Pederson said. “It’s only appropriate that he comes along and we share a special event and see how far we’ve come together.”
Pederson recalled Washington telling him back then, “If you’re ever in the Home Run Derby, let me throw to you.”
Ellis was adamant that Kershaw should be in Cincinnati with them.
“He’s not only our ace,” Ellis said, “but, in my opinion, also the ace of the National League.”
As of Wednesday, Kershaw ranked fourth among the five final vote candidates, but was only about 140,000 votes behind leader Johnny Cueto. Fans vote online at mlb.com until 1 p.m. on Friday.
Ellis said he admired how Kershaw has remained largely unaffected by the team’s offensive shortcomings.
“What remains the same is his consistency, his consistency as a person, his consistency as a teammate, his consistency as a competitor,” Ellis said.