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Wainwright defends start after rough outing

7/15/2014

MINNEAPOLIS -- So, the evidence would seem to suggest that National League manager Mike Matheny made the wrong call going with Adam Wainwright over Clayton Kershaw to start Tuesday night's All-Star Game.

Wainwright gave up three runs in the first inning. Kershaw breezed through the second inning in 11 pitches.

And, as Kershaw pointed out afterward, "This game means something." Both the Dodgers and Wainwright's St. Louis Cardinals have designs on reaching the World Series, which has home field decided by the All-Star Game.

But it's not quite as black and white as all that. For one thing, Kershaw got to face the Nos. 7, 8 and 9 batters on the American League roster, which means no Mike Trout -- who smacked a triple off the right-field wall -- and no Miguel Cabrera, who yanked a two-run home run over the left-field wall. Those were the top two finishers in back-to-back seasons for AL MVP voting. They might be the best player in the game (Trout) and the best hitter in the game (Cabrera).

Oh, and he also didn't have to face Derek Jeter.

It's not that Jeter, at 40, is such an intimidating at-bat these days, but he is when you've got your best pitch tied behind your back. Wainwright was so respectful of Jeter playing in his final All-Star Game, he said he grooved a couple of "pipe shots," or fastballs right down the middle. Jeter hit one of them for a leadoff double and scored the first run of the game.

"You knew he was going to do the right thing," Kershaw said. "He's a class act."

The best argument for starting Kershaw all along was simply that he's a better pitcher, which is true. But if the players take the game lightly enough that they are willing to give up a hit to honor a great player in his final game, that tells you simply winning the game isn't the primary objective. By the way, Kershaw is a big opponent of awarding home field based on the All-Star Game.

Kershaw has maintained all along that he wasn't upset that Matheny named Wainwright the starter. Someone asked Wainwright about the decision after his rough first inning. He cited his statistics and said, "Come on, guys. You can say whatever you want, but there's nobody that's going to say I didn't deserve to be in this spot. Mike did the right thing, because I would have been glaring at him the rest of the year."

Kershaw's best revenge: Help the Dodgers win the World Series. Then, Don Mattingly could name whomever he wants next year.