Clayton Kershaw makes emphatic case for All-Star spot, pitches Dodgers past Cubs
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts campaigned on his pitcher’s behalf before the game. His teammates endorsed his credentials in the clubhouse afterward.
But on Saturday night, in the Dodgers’ 4-2 win over the Chicago Cubs, the biggest boost to Clayton Kershaw’s All-Star Game candidacy came from what the 34-year-old left-hander did on the mound.
In 7⅔ stellar innings, Kershaw gave up only two runs, one earned.
Dotting his fastball and dominating with his slider, he had twice as many strikeouts (10) as hits surrendered (five).
And in front of 45,198 at Dodger Stadium, he continued his dazzling if interrupted season, lowering his earned-run average to a sparkling 2.40 after his longest start of the year.
“When he’s healthy, he’s an All-Star,” Roberts said. “He’s one of the best in baseball.”
Dodgers veteran left-hander Clayton Kershaw dominates over 7⅔ innings, striking out 10 and giving up one earned run in a 4-2 victory over the Cubs.
Kershaw wasn’t healthy for a big chunk of the first half, missing a month because of a back injury. Because of that, he doesn’t have the workload of other All-Star contenders in the National League, having pitched only 63⅔ innings.
But on the eve of Major League Baseball’s full roster announcements for the Midsummer Classic, he made an emphatic claim for his ninth career All-Star selection — and perhaps a first start in the event.
“It’s a huge honor and would be very special,” Kershaw said. “But I don’t want it to be one of those things where I’m taking a spot or taking something from somebody that’s more deserving. Thankfully, I don’t have to make that call.”
Hours before the first pitch, Roberts was more willing to press Kershaw’s claim. He referenced the veteran’s statistics, with Kershaw’s ERA now ranking fifth among NL pitchers with at least 60 innings.
“What he’s done with the time he has pitched, it’s been elite,” Roberts said. “It’s just hard to imagine an All-Star Game without Clayton Kershaw, given the fact that he’s also performed very well.”
Roberts also noted the poetic potential of Kershaw starting the game at Dodger Stadium.
“I’ve been reluctant to push as far as starting, but the game’s for the fans, and it’s just only fitting that Clayton would get that opportunity,” Roberts said, adding: “I’d be crazy not to think that Clayton should be named the starter.”
The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts and Trea Turner and the Angels’ Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani will start in the MLB All-Star Game on July 19 at Dodger Stadium.
It wasn’t until after the game that Roberts realized Kershaw has never started an All-Star Game, one of the few accomplishments that have eluded him during a Hall of Fame-caliber career.
“He’s doing everything he can not only to earn his way onto the team but earn the right, the opportunity to be the starter,” Roberts said.
Added longtime teammate Justin Turner: “Obviously, the guy has checked off just about every box there is to check off in this game. That’s one that I’m sure would absolutely be the cherry on top of everything he’s been able to do.”
If Kershaw makes the team — something Roberts on Saturday sounded confident would happen — the starting decision will be up to Atlanta manager Brian Snitker, who will manage the NL team after the Braves won the pennant last year.
Roberts, who will be on Snitker’s coaching staff, said the two haven’t had conversations about the choice yet. Still, “I know that Brian is a fan of the game and understands the fan bases,” Roberts said. “So it wouldn’t surprise me if Clayton is named a starter and started the game.”
On Saturday, Kershaw certainly looked worthy.
In the first inning, he struck out the side on 15 pitches, propelling him to his 67th career double-digit strikeout game.
“Tonight there was a different type of edge to him — and a good edge,” Roberts said. “He just came out attacking from the get-go.”
Through four innings, Kershaw had faced the minimum, erasing a lone second-inning single with a double play.
“Even though he’s 91-92 [mph with the fastball], that slider is still so unhittable,” said first baseman Freddie Freeman, teammates with Kershaw for the first time after playing against him for the previous dozen years. “I’ve seen it so much. It looks like a heater every single time and it dies on you at the last second.”
Will Smith hit a walk-off single in the 10th inning, and the Dodgers rallied from a three-run deficit to defeat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 on Friday night.
Kershaw had to do damage control in the fifth, giving up one run on a sacrifice fly after the Cubs (34-51) led off with a single and double.
He gave up an unearned run in the seventh, after Patrick Wisdom doubled, stole third and scored an unearned run on a bad throw to the plate by shortstop Trea Turner, putting the Cubs ahead 2-1.
By the time Kershaw returned to the mound in the eighth, however, the Dodgers (55-29) had retaken the lead courtesy of a game-tying solo home run by Jake Lamb and a go-ahead, two-run single from Freeman — one of several other Dodgers who Roberts hopes earn All-Star selections Sunday.
“If it happens, it happens; that’d be great,” said Freeman, one of the five other Dodgers who Roberts hopes will join Mookie Betts and Turner in the game.
“If not, just go and take four days off. It’s OK. You obviously want to play well, and if that all happens, it’s just an extra bonus of hanging out with some of the guys you don’t get to hang out with. But it’s not the end of the world” to not make the team.
A Dodger Stadium All-Star Game without Kershaw, however, would leave a void.
Starter or not, his presence would add to the atmosphere of the first All-Star Game at Chavez Ravine in 42 years — just like it electrified the ballpark Saturday night, when he left the mound to a standing ovation from a crowd hopeful his next appearance at the stadium will be for the midsummer classic in less than two weeks.
“It’s cool that people care,” Kershaw said. “I said it before, it just goes to show that I’ve been here a long time, which is special. I don’t take that for granted, to get to be here as long as I have. I know it would mean something to a lot of Dodger fans out there, which is really cool.”
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