Kershaw fine with relief role at Midsummer Classic
In his third consecutive All-Star Game, Dodgers ace defers to Mets' Harvey
NEW YORK -- This is Clayton Kershaw over the past three years: first in the Majors in ERA, first in the Majors in WHIP, first in the Majors in strikeouts, first in the Majors in opponents' OPS, first in the National League in innings pitched.
Zero All-Star Game starts.
Perhaps it's a trivial distinction, and All-Star pitchers certainly can have just as much impact coming out of the bullpen. But there's something weird about a Cy Young Award winner who's 25, on his third consecutive All-Star team, and once again sporting the lowest ERA in the league never being named a starter for the Midsummer Classic.
In 2011, Roy Halladay had the track record. In 2012, Matt Cain had thrown a perfect game. In Tuesday night's game at Citi Field, the fresh-faced Matt Harvey is the hometown guy.
And so again, Kershaw defers.
"I would like to do it, but it's not what I'm here for," Kershaw said during Monday's media sessions. "I'm just glad to be here, you know. Hopefully I'll get to throw an inning or so at some point. It'll be fun to watch him pitch."
Few would argue against Harvey, the 24-year-old phenom who has captured the imagination of Mets fans while posting a 2.35 ERA in 19 starts. Kershaw is the only pitcher in baseball with an ERA under 2.00, but the odds swayed in Harvey's favor because the All-Star Game is at Citi Field.
"I get it," Kershaw said. "I get it."
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, though, NL manager Bruce Bochy -- of the division-rival Giants, whom Kershaw has regularly carved up -- said it "really wouldn't have mattered what city we were playing in." Harvey, he added, "would have been the starting pitcher" regardless.
Kershaw's response was, well, curt: "It's his opinion. It's his opinion. Yeah. Whatever."
Kershaw, the lone representative on his underachieving-yet-upward-trending Dodgers, is nonetheless looking like a Cy Young favorite again, posting Major League lows in ERA (1.98), WHIP (0.908) and hits per nine innings (6.0), while ranking second in the NL strikeouts (139).
"I think he's the best in the game right now," said Buster Posey of the Giants, against whom Kershaw has gone 11-4 with a 1.32 ERA in 21 career games (20 starts).
"He's unbelievable," said D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who's 2-for-20 lifetime against Kershaw. "He's a true ace, he's got three pitches, four pitches, that he uses, anything you want. Competitor on the mound. Really anything you'd want in a guy."
But this is a society perpetually captivated by what's new and fresh, with no greater example being Kershaw's upstart teammate, Yasiel Puig. At a time when new pitchers are dominating the landscape, like Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jose Fernandez, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Chris Sale, someone like Kershaw -- consistently great and no longer surprisingly -- tends to be somewhat of an afterthought.
"I feel that's a good thing if people overlook it, because that means people expect it," Kershaw said. "I'm fine with expectations. I put enough on myself to where I don't worry about other stuff."
Kershaw is the first Dodgers pitcher to make three consecutive All-Star teams since closer Eric Gagne (2002-04), and the first starter to do so since Orel Hershiser (1987-89).
"He's earned it, the way he's pitched all year," Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly said. "You can't pitch much better than he's pitched. He deserves a few more W's."
Perhaps the most astonishing portion of Kershaw's stat line -- and further proof that win-loss records are far from a reliable measure of a starting pitcher's production -- is that he's only 8-6, despite twirling two shutouts. Four times this season, Kershaw has given the Dodgers a quality start and been saddled with a loss. In 12 of his 20 outings, his heralded offense has mustered three runs or fewer. And only six qualified starting pitchers have received less run support.
"You realize you can't control that," Kershaw said. "It does feel good to get a win by your name after every game, but you just have to give your team a chance. It's sometimes tough when you're in a little bit of a rut and you can't get that 'W' on the board, but that's not our job. As long as you keep that in perspective, you'll be OK."
Kershaw takes great pride in keeping the things he can't control in stride. Run support is one of them, and so was Monday's topic of the day for the Dodgers left-hander -- All-Star Game starts.
"It's not for me to decide," Kershaw said. "Harvey's deserving. He'll be good."
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.