Pirates-Dodgers Preview

The only non-quality start Clayton Kershaw has recorded while going undefeated over the last two-plus months came against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Having rebounded nicely from that early August effort, the left-hander tries to win a season-high fifth straight start Saturday night as the Los Angeles Dodgers look to hand the visiting Pirates a fifth consecutive defeat.

Though Kershaw (14-6, 2.12 ERA) might not be the top NL Cy Young candidate on his own team, he's 9-0 with an 0.98 ERA in 13 starts since losing at Miami on June 27.

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''He throws his pitches exactly where he wants to, throws balls in the dirt when he needs to so he can get people to chase. It's really good stuff,'' rookie teammate Corey Seager said after Kershaw gave up a run and three hits in seven innings of Monday's 4-1 victory over Colorado.

"It's been fun to watch."

Kershaw didn't have much fun Aug. 7 when he gave up four runs and nine hits in six innings of a 5-4, 10-inning loss at Pittsburgh (87-60). However, he's yielded seven runs over 54 innings since, and now faces a Pirates club that's totaled 11 runs in the last four and is only one game ahead of the Chicago Cubs for the top wild-card spot in the NL.

Major league ERA leader Zack Greinke allowed two runs over seven-plus innings and had two hits as Los Angeles (85-61) snapped a five-game skid to the Pirates with Friday's 6-2 victory. The NL West-leading Dodgers have won 18 of the last 23 and 21 of 27 at home, where they've recorded 50 victories for the third time since 1980.

''It's exciting. It's crunch-time. You can kind of feel it in the air,'' said Seager, batting .412 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 14 career games.

Out since Aug. 10 with a hamstring injury, second baseman Howie Kendrick could be in the Los Angeles lineup for this contest. Though he's expected to split time with Chase Utley, Kendrick is 9 for 19 with a home run, a triple and two doubles against Francisco Liriano (10-7, 3.45).

"We're not going to just throw him out there every day," manager Don Mattingly told MLB's official website. "I know we do want to be careful getting him back in there and not play him four or five days in a row."

Liriano has a 2.73 ERA while winning four of his last five road starts but needs to get back on track after he gave up five runs and seven hits in 2 1-3 innings of a 7-6, 11-inning home victory over Milwaukee on Sunday. The left-hander's 167 innings pitched this season are already the second-most of his career, thus his start following this one will be pushed back to Sept. 26 against the Cubs.

"We wanted to give him a little bit of a break," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think he feels very good about it and is ready to take advantage of it, then get back on the mound."

Though Liriano allowed four runs and seven hits in three innings of a 6-5 win over Los Angeles on Aug. 8, he's 3-0 with a 2.78 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers.

Andrew McCutchen is 2 for 13 with five strikeouts in his last three games, but is batting .381 with a homer in 21 at-bats off Kershaw.

Teammate Chris Stewart had two hits Friday and could be behind the plate again considering he's 7 for 14 with a homer against Kershaw.