LOS ANGELES -- LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Dodgers turned to their ace in a bid to win the National League division series.

Clayton Kershaw replaced Ricky Nolasco as the Dodgers' starting pitcher when they tried to clinch the division title against the Atlanta Braves on Monday night. Los Angeles had a 2-1 lead in the best of five series.

Kershaw, the 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner and a favorite again this season, was pitching on three days' rest for the first time since his 2008 major league debut.

"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.

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.

However, the move was contrary 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.

Mattingly said the final decision was made late Sunday, and Nolasco was informed of the switch. Mattingly, general manager Ned Collett, 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 started for the Braves.