As good as Clayton Kershaw was in his last outing, he has now gone nearly a month without winning and still doesn't feel real comfortable.
The Los Angeles Dodgers ace hopes to avoid his longest winless drought in 3 1/2 years and continue his recent domination of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday at PNC Park.
Kershaw (5-4, 1.88 ERA) is 0-2 with a 3.33 ERA in four starts since throwing a three-hitter to beat Milwaukee 3-1 on May 20. He hasn't endured a longer stretch without winning since going 0-3 in his final 11 starts of the 2009 season.
The former Cy Young Award winner was in line for a victory Monday after allowing one run and six hits over seven innings, but then-closer Brandon League yielded four runs in the ninth of a 5-4 loss to Arizona.
Though Kershaw's line was solid, he again didn't seem to be at his best.
"It was a battle out there," he said. "I didn't have great fastball command. I was 1-0, 2-0 basically the whole night. ... I'm glad I made it through seven."
Manager Don Mattingly pulled Kershaw after 99 pitches, his fewest since April 6.
"When he's really feeling good, he's kind of giving you that 'I got it. I got it. I got it,'" said Mattingly, who returns after a one-game suspension for his role in Wednesday's two bench-clearing incidents with Arizona.
"He's just aggressive about it, and as soon as you start walking toward him, he's letting you know (he wants to continue). But (Monday) it wasn't like that."
Kershaw's teammates haven't offered much support, averaging 3.0 runs in his last eight starts as he's gone 2-2 with a 1.99 ERA.
The left-hander hasn't needed much help when facing the Pirates over the past three years, going 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in three starts with one walk and 24 strikeouts. Kershaw defeated the Pirates on April 6, allowing two hits and striking out nine in seven innings of a 1-0 win.
Starling Marte had both hits off Kershaw, but he's missed the last two games with a rib injury and it's unclear if he will play this weekend.
Pittsburgh (40-27) did fine without him Friday, beating Los Angeles (28-38) for the first time in four tries this season with a 3-0 victory. Andrew McCutchen had a two-run double and is 11 for 22 with five RBIs in the last six games for the Pirates, who have won five of seven.
With A.J. Burnett recently going on the disabled list, the Pirates will give Brandon Cumpton his major league debut. The 24-year-old right-hander began the season at Double-A Altoona, then was 4-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 11 appearances - 10 starts - for Triple-A Indianapolis.
"(Cumpton is) a three-pitch guy, a strike-thrower to both sides of the plate. He's a competitor," manager Clint Hurdle told the Pirates' official website.
It remains to be seen if Cumpton is the long-term replacement for Burnett, out indefinitely with a torn right calf.
"No need to get ahead of ourselves," Hurdle said. "We'll give him the ball and see where he can take it. We'll take it one start at a time."
Fellow rookie Yasiel Puig had two of the Dodgers' six hits Friday during their fifth loss in six games. The standout outfielder is batting .487 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 11 games since making his big league debut June 3, but Puig has only one extra-base hit in his last six contests.
Los Angeles has dropped 12 of 15 on the road.
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