By Jon Weisman
Having gradually whittled down his 2015 detractors with a 1.53 ERA over his past nine starts, Clayton Kershaw was back on the defensive at tonight’s All-Star Game.
Kershaw came within a hair of a scoreless inning before giving up two runs, allowing the American League to take a 3-1 lead at the Midsummer Classic’s halfway point.
Kershaw, who had pitched shutout innings in each of his four previous All-Star Games, retiring 12 of 15 batters, began by surrendering a leadoff single to Alcides Escobar just under the glove of a drawn-in Todd Frazier.
Mike Trout then hit what looked like a double-play grounder to second baseman DJ LeMahieu near second base, but a slow turn allowed a fast Trout to reach first on a force play. Manny Machado flied out to Kershaw teammate Joc Pederson on the warning track for the second out.
After appearing to have Albert Pujols whiffed on a 2-2 pitch that was ruled just off, Kershaw smiled as he walked back to the rubber. But that was it for the fun.
Pujols walked, and then, left-handed Prince Fielder hit an 0-2 fastball that missed its spot for a tiebreaking RBI single the opposite way, scoring Trout ahead of Pederson’s throw home. Kershaw’s next pitch was hit sharply down the left-field line by Lorenzo Cain for an RBI double that gave the AL a 3-1 lead.
Kershaw ended his inning, and his night, by striking out Brett Gardner. He threw 22 pitches (15 for strikes) to his seven batters.
“It was fun until I started giving up runs,” Kershaw told reporters afterward.
The inning left Kershaw with a 3.60 career All-Star ERA, with five hits, two walks and three strikeouts in five innings.