Kershaw passed over again, but not overlooked

Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers isn’t starting, though he’s baffled NL hitters.

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Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw works against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning of a baseball game in Denver on Friday, July 4, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Photo: David Zalubowski, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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Maybe when the Dodgers are awarded the 2021 All-Star Game — or whenever they get another shot — Clayton Kershaw will finally get to throw the first pitch for the National League.

It seems like that will be the only way he’ll get to start, because dominating pitching isn’t getting him anywhere.

Kershaw, author of a 41-inning scoreless streak that ended last week, is not getting the ball to start Tuesday night in the Midsummer Classic at Target Field. The ball is going to St. Louis righthander Adam Wainwright, who you can argue deserves the honor.

But Kershaw has been the talk of baseball as he marched closer and closer to former Dodger Orel Hershiser, whose record 59-inning streak has remained the scoreless standard since 1988. Kershaw’s streak ended Thursday on a home run by San Diego’s Chase Headley.

When you’re the talk of baseball and have the jaw-dropping numbers Kershaw has, it’s hard to see him starting this one in the bullpen. He’s 11-2 with a 1.78 ERA. His walks per nine innings of 1.2 would be a career low. His strikeouts per nine innings of 11.8 would be a career high. At age 26, Kershaw looks like he’s at the height of his powers.

“He happens to be in my division, so I’ve faced him plenty of times,” said Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who has faced Kershaw more than any opponent and is batting only .231 with two homers and seven RBI in 58 at-bats against him. “You know you have to bring your ‘A’ swing. He loves to pound the strike zone. He’s a beast.”

But NL manager Mike Matheny selected his pitcher, Wainwright, opting for the hot hand over the searing red-hot hand. It’s not the first time an All-Star Game manager has given the start to his own pitcher — see Tom Kelly and Frank Viola, 1988. And Wainwright has been healthy the whole season while Kershaw missed a month because of a sore back.

Kershaw said he expected Wainwright to get the start because he’s had a little better first half and expected Matheny to go for his guy. It’s the second consecutive year Kershaw has been snubbed regarding the All-Star start. He was 8-6 with a 1.98 ERA at the break last year, but NL manager Bruce Bochy selected Mets righthander Matt Harvey to start in front of the pitcher’s home crowd at CitiField.

“I get to be here, which is awesome,” Kershaw said. “Yes, if they asked me to do it, I would have said, ‘Yes,’ it would be awesome. But it is something that is not on my bucket list. It has been somebody just better in the first half, that’s how it goes.”

Kershaw is building a résumé that will eventually give him the nod. He’s 88-48 with a 2.54 ERA. He has a chance to lead the NL in ERA for the fourth season in a row, an incredible accomplishment given how hard it is for pitchers to stay healthy and on top of their game. He’s won Cy Young awards in 2011 and 2013. At his age, the foundation is set for him to make a run at the Hall of Fame, provided he stays healthy.

“He’s probably the hardest-working pitcher I’ve played with,” Dodgers righthander Zack Greinke said. “He’s focused every day. All 34 starts and the playoffs and even spring training, he’s 100 percent focused, and not everyone does that. And he works hard for every single start, and everyone definitely doesn’t do that, because their bodies won’t let them do that. It’s a special gift he has. I don’t know where he got all the energy from.”

And rattling off 41 consecutive scoreless innings — during which he beat Tulowitzki’s Rockies twice — is the stuff that builds the Kershaw brand.

“I guess you didn’t even notice,” Greinke said. “It’s sort of what you see every start. You almost expect him to do that.”

 

La Velle E. Neal III • lneal@startribune.com

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