Clayton Kershaw replaced Ricky Nolasco as the starter for Game 4 against the Atlanta Braves on Monday night. Los Angeles held a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five matchup.
Kershaw, the 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner and a favorite again this season, was set to pitch on three days' rest for the first time since beginning his major league career in 2008.
"You want your best chance to win, and this really we feel like gives us the best chance to win," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who was 1 for 4 with two strikeouts against Kershaw in Game 1, credited the Dodgers for making "a smart move" in an attempt to win the series at home.
"Kershaw hasn't done this before in his career, pitched on three days' rest, so maybe this will be a positive for us," he said. "Maybe we can get to him a little early. Maybe he's a little tired."
Kershaw allowed one run and three hits in seven innings during Thursday's series opener at Atlanta, striking out 12 in a 6-1 win, when he threw 124 pitches.
"He was barking right after the game that he was ready for Game 4," Mattingly said. "We're like, 'No, no, no, no, no. Let's see how you're doing.'"
Mattingly said the possibility of using Kershaw in Game 4 was first discussed when the team knew it had made the playoffs and then saw the division series schedule, which included two off-days.
"As we kept looking at it, it made more and more sense," Mattingly said.
The move was contrary, however, to what pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told the Los Angeles Times after Sunday night's 13-6 win. He had said the Dodgers would start Nolasco because Kershaw was the team's future and they didn't want to jeopardize it.
"I know he didn't say anything about not wanting to because I've been in all the meetings," Mattingly said of Honeycutt.
The veteran pitching coach said before Monday's game that Kershaw was always an available option.
"Our faith really is in him and his personality, both physically and mentally," Honeycutt said. "That was a big factor in this decision."
Mattingly said the final decision was made late Sunday, and Nolasco was informed of the switch. Mattingly, general manager Ned Colletti and Kershaw were among those involved in the discussions.
Kershaw pitched a career-high 236 innings while making 33 regular-season starts for the third straight year.
"He works so hard to get to this position and to be in this game," Mattingly said. "Obviously, we think too much of Clayton to do anything that if he wasn't a hundred percent sure, hundred percent on board. I mean, you're always going to question whatever, but we just feel pretty comfortable with it."
Veteran Freddy Garcia was set to start for the Braves.