MINNEAPOLIS — Mike Matheny had quite the choice for the National League’s All-Star starter.
There was his own Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals ace with a 12-4 record and a 1.83 ERA.
And there was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, 11-2 with a 1.78 ERA and fresh off a 41-inning scoreless streak that ended last week.
He chose Wainwright, who will start tonight at Target Field against the Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez.
“It’s going to be great catching them,” said Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy, the NL starter behind the plate. “A lot more fun than facing them.”
When baseball’s elite met at Citi Field last year, NL batters managed just three hits in a 3-0 loss. A year earlier in Kansas City, the AL had just six hits in an 8-0 defeat.
Never before had consecutive All-Star games ended in shutouts.
“Guys are throwing harder. Guys have more pitches,” said Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley, making his sixth All-Star appearance and first since 2010.
The big league batting average is at a 42-year low. Strikeouts are at an all-time high.
Wainwright and Kershaw are on track to become the first pair of qualifying pitchers in one league with a sub-2.00 ERA since the Mets’ Dwight Gooden and the Cardinals’ John Tudor in 1985 — the last time Minnesota hosted the All-Stars.
“Aside from having the ability to win two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, I think this has to be one of the highlights of my baseball career to this point,” Wainwright said. “One of the coolest things I can say I did is to start a big league All-Star game.”
Kershaw understood Matheny’s decision.
“If I’m him, I’m probably going to pick Adam, too. It’s his guy and he had the best half,” Kershaw said.