MINNEAPOLIS -- Adam Wainwright will start the All-Star Game for the National League tonight at Target Field, NL manager Mike Matheny announced Monday, selecting his own player in a close call rather than Clayton Kershaw.
American League manager John Farrell chose Felix Hernandez to start for the AL.
Wainwright, a St. Louis Cardinals right-hander, will start his first All-Star Game in his third appearance. He has a 1.83 ERA in 138 innings and struck out 115 while walking only 27. He has pitched seven or more innings in all but three starts this season.
"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.
Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander and reigning NL Cy Young winner, missed all of April while on the disabled list because of a strained left shoulder. He is currently two-thirds of an inning shy of qualifying for the ERA title as a result. But he'll get there, and he has been superb since returning: His 1.78 ERA would lead the majors if he qualified, as would his 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
Matheny, the Cardinals' manager, said deciding between the two was tough.
"To the degree of what we were able to see on a consistent basis from the leadership, right down to the execution and the day-in/day-out performance of what Adam has been able to do, really is kind of an unfair advantage to the others," he said.
Hernandez, a right-hander for the Seattle Mariners, will be the first Venezuelan pitcher to start the All-Star Game. He has a 2.12 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 1441/3 innings and entered the break with 11 consecutive starts of at least seven innings and two or fewer earned runs.
"Just have to go out there and do what I have to do," Hernandez said. "Just throw zeros out there and get my team to win, that's all I got to do."
McCutchen in center
Andrew McCutchen will lead off and play center field for the NL tonight.
Matheny placed him in center field ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers' Carlos Gomez. While McCutchen is the reigning NL Most Valuable Player and received more All-Star fan votes than any other NL outfielder, Gomez is an exceptional defensive center fielder. He will play left field and bat ninth.
"I think we're just going off experience," Matheny said. "We're talking an MVP player, and Andrew McCutchen is definitely one of those standout players defensively, as well as Carlos Gomez."
McCutchen wondered if the voting played a role but didn't know how Matheny made the decision.
"I don't know if he flipped a coin on that or what," he said.
McCutchen will face Hernandez in the first at-bat of the game.
"Might be leadoff, but I still hit in the three-hole at heart," McCutchen said. "If he grooves me one ... " McCutchen smiled and raised his eyebrows, "Who knows?"
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG