There was some controversy when St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny chose to start his own pitcher, Adam Wainwright, for the National League in the All-Star Game over a pitcher who got off to a slow start but has been absolutely dominant in the last month in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
As it turned out, that choice didn’t look too good on Tuesday night, as Wainwright got rocked in the first, then Kershaw came in to clean up the mess in the second. Wainwright gave up three runs on three hits, including a leadoff double to Derek Jeter, a triple by Mike Trout that nearly left the ballpark, and a home run by Miguel Cabrera. He rebounded to retire Jose Bautista and Nelson Cruz, but it was too late to negate the damage.
In all fairness to Wainwright, it would have been tough on any pitcher that started, because an extended standing ovation for Jeter caused a delay in which Wainwright had no choice but to be respectful and lay his glove and the ball on the mound while the crowd honored the legendary shortstop. He seemed to take a while to get in a rhythm after that, especially after starting on a down note with the hard-hit double by Jeter.
Kershaw threw a perfect inning, but it’s impossible to know how he would have done had he been the starter. He would have had to face guys like Trout and Cabrera, rather than the bottom third of the AL order which included less-heralded guys like Adam Jones, Josh Donaldson, and Salvador Perez.
So while it’s easy to criticize Matheny for his choice after the fact, it’s not really worth it, because it’s entirely possible that anyone faced with the first inning sideshow would have succumbed to the pressure.