Clayton Kershaw sprinted off the field and into the Dodgers dugout after getting the last out of the seventh inning Saturday. He quickly put on a helmet, grabbed a bat and was about to leap into the on-deck circle to lead off the bottom of the inning.

This time, Don Mattingly didn't let it happen.

The Dodgers manager discretely escorted Kershaw to the bench and explained to him he'd already done plenty - striking out nine and surrendering just two hits while hanging onto a 1-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

That would hold up as the final score in front of 39,446 at Dodger Stadium.

The problem was Kershaw already had thrown 97 pitches and something had to give.

On Opening Day, Mattingly let Kershaw swing away to open the bottom of the eighth of a scoreless game against San Francisco, and the former Cy Young Award winner responded with his first big-league homer. This time Mattingly decided to skip Kershaw's turn at the plate in favor of Skip Shumaker.

"He'd fight hard to stay in even if he was at 120 pitches," Mattingly said later. "We have to be careful with him being him.

"Even on a bad day, he'll go six or seven innings and keep fighting. It was just the right time."

The difference was Kershaw's complete game against the Giants came with throwing only 87 pitches in nine innings.

"I thought I had a chance (to hit), so I might as well prepare as if I was going up to hit again," Kershaw said. "I understood."

Kershaw also did almost the unthinkable before Mattingly's decision. He walked a batter, his first in 15 2/3 innings this season. Three pitches later, Kershaw picked off Russell Martin.

Instead of another shot at a complete-game shutout, Kershaw had to settle for a seven scoreless innings and retiring 17 consecutive Pirates at one point. That string came in between singles by Pirates leadoff hitter Starling Marte. Those were the only two hits Pittsburgh had all night.

The same formula that worked for Kershaw against San Francisco on Monday was successful Saturday: a torrid mix of fastball, sliders and curves, ranging from 72 to 94 mph.

"Even then, the fastball wasn't that great," Kershaw said. "I was really bearing down in a tight game. The slider was just OK."

Mattingly said he thought Kershaw's slider had "more depth, it was biting down and there were a lot of check-swings with two strikes, which shows that it's really digging."