The starting pitching matchup at the All-Star game – whatever it ends up being – could be one for the ages.
Seattle’s Felix Hernandez looks like the front-runner in the American League, with a 10-2 record and a 2.11 ERA. Meanwhile, National League manager Mike Matheny of St. Louis could end up choosing between Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw (10-2, 1.85) and Cardinals star Adam Wainwright (11-4, 1.89) for the start.
The last time both All-Star starters had ERAs under 2.15 was back in 1974, according to STATS. Gaylord Perry (1.47 ERA at the break) took the mound for the AL against Andy Messersmith (2.11) of the NL.
Of course, that game wasn’t exactly a pitching duel. The NL won 7-2. Messersmith and Perry both went three innings, with Messersmith allowing two runs and Perry one. They both did go on to reach 20 wins that year.
New York Yankees sensation Masahiro Tanaka, another pitcher being mentioned as a possible starter in 2014, is expected to go in his team’s final game before the break, which would rule him out.
Wainwright is supposed to pitch Saturday, but he says participating in the July 15 All-Star game shouldn’t disrupt his schedule too much.
“It’s the All-Star Game,” Wainwright said. “Vacation, right? Except it means something.”
Here are five things to watch around the major leagues this week:
MARQUEE MATCHUP: The Los Angeles Dodgers visit Detroit for two games against the Tigers in what could be an interleague matchup of first-place teams. Detroit’s Max Scherzer and Los Angeles’ Zack Greinke – both All-Stars – take the mound Wednesday.
SMOKE AND MIRRORS?: San Diego right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne has walked eight and struck out only five in his first three big league starts, yet here he is with a 2-0 record and a 0.92 ERA. He’ll face Kershaw and the Dodgers on Thursday night. The Los Angeles lefty will try to extend his 36-inning scoreless streak.
SETTLING IN: It looks like a two-team race may finally be developing in the NL East, now that Miami has fallen off the pace a bit. Atlanta’s nine-game winning streak ended Sunday, but the Braves lead Washington by a half-game atop the division. Atlanta faces the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs this week, while the Nationals take on Baltimore and Philadelphia.
CATBIRD SEAT: It seems like everyone has had a turn as the team to beat in the AL East this year, and now it’s Baltimore leading the division by two games over Toronto. Nelson Cruz has lifted the Orioles with 27 homers. After four games against Washington this week, Baltimore hosts three against the New York Yankees.
REBUILDING: After trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland, the Chicago Cubs will obviously be shaking up their rotation this week. Tsuyoshi Wada is expected to make his major league debut as part of a doubleheader at Cincinnati on Tuesday. The Japanese left-hander has struck out about a batter an inning at Triple-A Iowa this season.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Kershaw threw eight scoreless innings against Colorado on Friday, his first start against the Rockies since he no-hit them June 18. In those two games against Colorado, Kershaw totaled 200 pitches, holding the Rockies to a .038 average with 23 strikeouts and one walk.
AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom contributed to this report.