The only reason Clayton Kershaw doesn't have a chance to win his seventh straight start Saturday night is because Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made a decision that backfired.
It was a valuable lesson for both pitcher and boss, with Kershaw forced to control his disappointment and Roberts learning to trust his ace until he gives him a reason otherwise.
Kershaw has been stellar against the Atlanta Braves in recent years, and he'll look to shut down the worst team in the NL again at Dodger Stadium.
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After giving up four hits and striking out 10 through 7 2/3 innings Sunday night against the New York Mets, Kershaw (7-1, 1.56 ERA) was visibly frustrated when Roberts asked for the ball with a runner on first and the Dodgers (29-27) clinging to a one-run lead.
The next batter tied the game with a double and left Kershaw with a no-decision before Los Angeles pulled out a 4-2 victory.
''It's a tough situation. That's why I'm not the manager,'' said Kershaw, who threw 114 pitches. ''I think managers appreciate when you don't want to come out of the game and obviously I didn't want to and never really do. But you know what? He's making the decisions and you've just got to respect it."
That's what comes with being a rookie manager, but Roberts might want to be careful when deciding to remove Kershaw in close games again. The left-hander, who has won three Cy Youngs and an MVP, has struck out 100 while walking only five, making for the best ratio for any major league pitcher when he reached 100 strikeouts in a season.
Kershaw, who finished 5-0 with a 0.91 ERA in six May starts, fanned 10 against the Braves (16-38) on April 21 and allowed only one run despite giving up a season-high 10 hits in eight innings before the Dodgers won 2-1 in 10.
He's 3-0 with an 0.73 ERA in his last five starts against Atlanta, including two outings in the 2013 NLDS, and has never lost in nine starts versus the Braves.
Mike Foltynewicz (2-2, 3.51) starts for Atlanta after back-to-back solid outings, giving up one run in 5 2/3 innings against Milwaukee on May 25 before allowing a run in six innings of Monday's 5-3 win over San Francisco.
The 24-year-old right-hander mixed in some offspeed stuff with a fastball that often registers high on the gun.
''It's nice to know I don't have to throw 97 all the time,'' Foltynewicz said.
Interim manager Brian Snitker was impressed, saying Foltynewicz's most recent outing was even better than when he pitched eight scoreless innings against defending World Series champion Kansas City on May 14.
''Probably the best total package I've seen out of him,'' Snitker said.
Foltynewicz has never faced the Dodgers, who placed Yasiel Puig on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring prior to Friday's contest. They activated utility man Scott Van Slyke from the DL in a corresponding move.
Los Angeles didn't need Puig in Friday's series opener as Corey Seager homered three times in a 4-2 win. Seager's roommate, Trayce Thompson, homered and had the Dodgers' other two hits as they bounced back from dropping three of four at Wrigley Field.
Atlanta has lost four of six and lost for the sixth time in seven tries at Dodger Stadium.