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Kershaw seeks to further Cy Young credentials against Braves

Clayton Kershaw is in the middle of an amazing run that has made the Dodgers starter one of the favorites to win the National League's Cy Young Award.

He could get a run for his money today if Braves prospect Randall Delgado can duplicate his last major league appearance.

The two starters go head-to-head this afternoon as playoff-hopeful Atlanta tries to avoid getting swept in a three-game set versus Los Angeles at home for the first time in over 23 years.

The 23-year-old Kershaw has won four straight and nine of his past 10 starts, giving up more than two runs just once in that span. He has allowed a pair of runs over his current win streak, spanning 31 innings.

The left-hander fired his fifth complete game of the season on Monday versus San Diego, surrendering one run on six hits and two walks to improve to 17-5 with a 2.45 earned run average on the season. He became the league's second hurler to reach 17 wins and sits second in the NL in ERA.

"It was rough early, then all of a sudden he got into a groove," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Things were going so easy as the game went on. It made my decision easy to keep him in there in the ninth. Clayton is as good as anyone out there."

Kershaw has yet to post a decision in three career meetings with the Braves while posting a 2.42 ERA. He may need to be in top form given the success Delgado had in his last outing.

Making just the second start of his career, Atlanta's third-ranked prospect by MLB.com took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Aug. 16 versus the Giants and had walked just one batter before allowing a leadoff homer that ended his night. The right-hander ended up with a no-decision and gets the call today because of a right knee injury to Jair Jurrjens that caused the Braves to skip his slated start today.

The 21-year-old Delgado made his major league debut back on June 17 and allowed three earned runs over four innings of a loss to Texas, but could be a mainstay in Atlanta's rotation next season.

"The one thing we've seen is his maturity," general manager Frank Wren said of Delgado on his team's website, "[and] his ability to not get rattled with a big crowd that night. He came out and threw the ball really well and made a lot of quality pitches. It's always impressive when you have a kid do that."

Delgado will by looking to help the Braves avoid their first home sweep at the hands of the Dodgers since they dropped all four contests of a meeting from April 7-10, 1988. Los Angeles picked up its season-high sixth straight victory and fifth in six meetings with the Braves on Saturday with a 2-1 triumph in 10 innings.

After the clubs traded solo home runs early in the night -- the Dodgers' A.J. Ellis homered in the second inning and Dan Uggla countered in the bottom of the frame -- Juan Rivera lifted a sacrifice fly to score Dee Gordon in the extra frame. It gave Los Angeles its 11th victory in 12 games.

"I don't think we've changed anything, we're just playing together and the game started and we're just finding a way to win instead of just barely losing," said winning reliever Mike MacDougal. "We're just finding a way to win. They've all been fairly close and we've been coming up on top."

The defeat kept the Braves 8 1/2 games back of the Phillies for the top spot in the NL East, while their advantage for the league's wild card spot fell to 7 1/2 games over the Cardinals.

"Our bullpen and their bullpen matched us all the way with zeros all the way to the end," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We didn't get the hit or the bloop when we needed to. So that's just the way it goes sometimes."

Atlanta went hitless in seven opportunities with men in scoring position and lost for the fourth time in six games.