MLB

It's Duffy vs. Kershaw as Royals try to salvage a win in LA

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers fans were elated to hear Clayton Kershaw would pitch the last game before the All-Star break Sunday against the Kansas City Royals and Danny Duffy.

Baseball fans across the country were vexed.

Kershaw made the National League All-Star roster for the seventh time, yet the two-time Cy Young Award winner has never started one. He won't this year, either, because he's a no-go for the All-Star Game.

It denies the nation an opportunity to watch the best pitcher of his generation, but the Dodgers are more concerned with their season. Kershaw, sitting at 13 victories, is among a small group of pitchers who have had audacious first-half numbers. Knuckleballer Wilbur Wood won 18 games before the break in 1973 but didn't make the All-Star team (he was 18-14).

The record for most wins at the break by an All-Star is 17, set by Vida Blue in 1971 (17-3) and tied by Mickey Lolich in 1972 (17-6). Kershaw could break the Dodgers' record for most wins at the break held by Orel Hershiser, who had 13 in 1988.

Kershaw's season has been worthy of the Louvre. He's 13-2 with a 2.19 ERA, with a mere 22 walks and 146 strikeouts. He's made 18 starts (15 of the quality variety). He's gone seven innings or more 13 times and held opponents to two runs or fewer 14 times.

He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his last start, then left soon after allowing a hit because his pitch count had hit 117. That's been the only chafing thing to Kershaw this season, that the Dodgers do not want to push his pitch count -- which means leaving games early. He was pulled after six shutout innings in which he allowed only four hits and no runs against Colorado.

"There's a lot going on there both ways," Kershaw said, referring to his ideas and those of manager Dave Roberts. "Without elaborating, that's the way it went. It's a cliche, but it is what it is."

He also knows what the team goal is -- its first World Series title since 1988. That's why he's starting Sunday. It's his turn. On a team that has 60 wins and the best record in baseball, rocking the boat is not allowed.

Duffy made a little news this week by tweeting that he's been summoned for a MLB drug test 12 times this season. "That's (12) drug tests so far … Really keepin(g) tabs … I'm built like Gumby guys I promise I'm not the one."

The Royals' chances of winning the American League Central ride on what Duffy does the second half.

He's 5-4 with a 3.51 ERA and came back from an oblique strain after 37 days, beating the estimate by two weeks. Eight of his 12 starts have been quality efforts.

"They've been holding down the fort since I've been gone, more than anyone could ever imagine," Duffy said of the Royals' recent run of 18 wins in 24 games. "They've been doing outstanding. Now it's my job to come in and not mess it up."

Kershaw and Duffy each have one appearance against their opponents, and it was against each other.

In 2014, Kershaw pitched eight innings and allowed six hits while striking out eight and Duffy went six innings and allowed one run and four hits in a 2-0 Dodgers victory.