Dodgers help NL to All-Star win
Kemp, Ethier, Kershaw all key in 5-1 victory. Angels' players not quite as impactful
PHOENIX -- Matt Kemp's first All-Star experience didn't look much like his first half of the season. There wasn't much that was worthy of hyperbole, there wasn't anything that will go down as a great moment in the history of the so-called Midsummer Classic and there weren't any big displays of power even in the Home Run Derby, in which he managed to go yard only twice.
But minutes after Tuesday night's game, a 5-1 National League victory before a sellout crowd of 47,994 at Chase Field, the Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder created a little hyperbole of his own when asked what the experience had been like.
"Amazing," he said.
And, from an individual standpoint, reasonably successful. In three plate appearances, Kemp drew a walk from the Los Angeles Angels' Jered Weaver, pulled a hard single to left against the Texas Rangers' C.J. Wilson and flied to right against the Cleveland Indians' Chris Perez. The fourth-inning single was immediately followed by Prince Fielder's decisive, three-run homer, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead, making Fielder the game's MVP and giving Kemp the distinction of having scored the winning run.
"It was definitely fun," he said. "This definitely doesn't get old. I had a great time, and I got to go out there and do some things."
In fact, all three of the Dodgers' All-Stars contributed to the second consecutive victory by the NL, which will have home-field advantage again in this year's World Series.
Left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who will get the ball for the team's second-half opener Friday night in this same ballpark, pitched a perfect fifth inning, striking out David Ortiz and getting Derby winner Robinson Cano and Alex Avila to ground to first. Right fielder Andre Ethier's only appearance was as a pinch hitter in the fifth, when he singled to drive in Rickie Weeks and give the NL a 4-1 lead, although Ethier subsequently was thrown out at second when first baseman Miguel Cabrera cut off the throw from right field.
Kemp, who brought several friends and family members in for the event, said this was something he had envisioned for a long time.
"It's something that as a kid, you dream about," he said.
Weaver was the first Los Angeles Angels pitcher to start an All-Star Game since Mark Langston 18 years earlier, but he didn't stick around long. After getting Weeks to ground out, striking out Carlos Beltran, walking Kemp and getting Fielder to fly harmlessly to left, Weaver was done, in keeping with a promise he and American League manager Ron Washington had made to Angels manager Mike Scioscia days earlier.
"[Scioscia] told me the day after I was picked [to start] that he only wanted me to go one inning because I'm going to be pitching one of the doubleheader games in Oakland this weekend," Weaver said. "I was fine with that. I wasn't going to argue with him. I was able to get one-and-done and sit back and enjoy the rest of the game."
Of the other Angels players in the game, reliever Jordan Walden pitched a rocky fifth inning. He gave up only one run on that RBI single by Ethier, but he also gave up a hit to Troy Tulowitzki and the NL stole three bases against him, including two by Tulowitzki and another later in the inning by Weeks. Without that last one, Weeks wouldn't have scored on Ethier's hit. Walden did make a nice defensive play to cut down Starlin Castro trying to score on a comebacker by Scott Rolen.
Meanwhile, Howie Kendrick entered at second base in the fifth and played the rest of the game, grounding to second in his only plate appearance against Atlanta left-hander Jonny Venters. Kendrick had just one play in the field, a routine popup by Beltran in the eighth.
Kershaw, like Kemp a first-time All-Star, said his game plan wasn't complicated.
"Just try to throw it as hard as I could for an inning and see what happened," he said. "I got three lefties, so that was kind of nice. I just wanted to throw strikes and have fun."
Kershaw said he knew he was pitching only one inning, but he wasn't sure whether it would be the fourth or fifth because there was some question whether Philadelphia lefty Cliff Lee, who entered to start the third, would go one or two innings. As it turned out, Lee did go back out for the fourth but got only two outs. NL manager Bruce Bochy brought in Washington's Tyler Clippard to get out of that jam, and Clippard wound up getting the win.
Given the continued improvement by Kershaw this season and the way he has risen to the occasion of now being looked to as the Dodgers' unquestioned ace, this doesn't figure to be his final trip to the All-Star Game.
"I had such a great time doing this, and it just makes me really respect some of these guys who have done it over and over again," Kershaw said. "Hopefully, this won't be my last time, because I had a lot of fun."
When Ethier's name was announced during formal introductions of players before the game, he was booed roundly, presumably for no other reason than that he was wearing a Dodgers uniform. Still, shouldn't the fact that he grew up here and became a star player at Arizona State University in nearby Tempe have counted for something among the locals?
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"I think a lot of them know [that]," said Ethier, who still lives here in the offseason. "But whenever I'm walking around in public, it doesn't matter whether they're Diamondbacks fans or not, they still come up and go, 'Go ASU, but boo Dodgers.' That is usually the reaction I get. ASU baseball is a big part of what goes on here."
Ethier, who finished second to Philadelphia's Shane Victorino on the final-player ballot, was added to the team by Bochy on Friday to replace Victorino, who bowed out because of an injury. Ethier was selected as a reserve last year, when the game was played in Anaheim. Even though this one was in his hometown, Ethier said he couldn't compare the two experiences, adding that each one had its own feel and will occupy its own special place in his memory.
He did say he takes special pride in the fact the NL, which until last year hadn't won an All-Star Game since 1996, has won both of the games in which he has played.
Ethier, when told his RBI was the first by a Dodgers player in an All-Star Game since Mike Piazza drove in two at Philadelphia in 1996: "Maybe that's a bad omen. Maybe now they'll trade me just like they traded him."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.