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LOS ANGELES - Dodgers lefty and franchise legend Clayton Kershaw started the 2022 All-Star Game on Tuesday at his home ballpark. It made sense. He's an all-time great who had never started the Midsummer Classic. If not for those circumstances, however, the NL starter would be Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara

Alcantara, 26, is an old-school workhorse. He's the single innings eater in the league, actually, and he's producing eye-popping stats in a breakout season.

Phillies starter Aaron Nola has thrown 126 2/3 innings this season. He's second in the majors. Alek Manoah of the Blue Jays has tossed 120 2/3 innings to lead the American League. Alcantara threw 138 1/3 innings in the first half and will continue his Cy Young campaign Sunday as he faces the Pirates in his first post-All-Star Game start.

Alcantara leads the majors in batters faced, complete games (he's tied with fellow All-Star Framber Valdez there with two) and nine-inning outings (he once went nine innings in a game that went extras). He's gone at least eight innings in nine of his 19 starts. He's gone at least seven innings in 14 of those 19 starts. 

And through all that, he has an NL-leading 1.76 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.

This guy is just crushing it. In the era of starting pitchers not working deep into games and so much reliever specialization -- and don't forget the "opener" -- it's such a pleasure to watch a throwback workhorse do his thing like Alcantara does. 

He takes pride in it, too. 

"Always!" he said when I asked if working deep into games is a point of pride. "Like I've said before and I say all the time: My mentality is to go deep into games and finish my own games. I'm that guy who likes to compete. I'm that guy who likes to challenge the hitter. I'm the guy who will go out and fight." 

We saw it on June 29 when Marlins manager Don Mattingly came out to remove Alcantara from the game. It actually looked like he would take a hard-luck loss in an eight-inning complete game, but then Avisail Garcia hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth to give the Marlins a 4-3 lead. Alcantara got one out but then allowed a walk and single. He was at 115 pitches with a one-run lead and two runners on base. Pretty much every other pitcher in baseball would be pulled. But Alcantara convinced Mattingly to leave him in. 

"I was so mad, man," he said Monday with a laugh. "I had just let two guys on base and when I saw him come to me, I said 'you don't want to take me out of the game. No, I got this guy.'" 

He did. He induced a ground-ball double play to end the game. 

That's what Sandy Alcantara has been doing all season. He's the biggest workhorse in the game and he cleans up his own messes. He's been the best pitcher in the NL to this point. Historic circumstances aligning to make Kershaw the starter of the All-Star Game doesn't change that.