The second inning didn’t go according to plan, but Julio Urías’ performance did.
Urías turned in another stellar outing as the Dodgers’ bulk-innings reliever, allowing only one unearned run over five innings to help Los Angeles complete a sweep of the Padres with a resounding 12-3 win in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Globe Life Field on Thursday night.
Urías struck out Fernando Tatis Jr. to quell a bases-loaded threat in the second inning, keeping the Dodgers’ pitching strategy from unraveling following Dustin May’s one-inning stint as an opener. Urías retired the first 10 batters he faced, gave up one hit and struck out six to earn his second win of the postseason and help the Dodgers advance to the NL Championship Series, where they will face the Braves in a best-of-seven matchup that begins on Monday in Arlington.
“That was just a gutty, gutty outing by Julio,” third baseman Justin Turner said. “It doesn't surprise us. He's a bulldog out there. When he's on the mound, he competes as good as anyone. For him to go out there and shut down, essentially, a really good lineup the way he did ... he was outstanding. He doesn't scare off, man. He doesn't shy away from the big moment, and you could definitely see that out there tonight.”
May, who pitched two perfect innings in relief of Walker Buehler in Game 1 on Tuesday, was announced as the Dodgers’ Game 3 starter, though the 23-year-old right-hander’s first career postseason start wound up being shorter than expected.
May worked around a one-out walk to Tatis to post a scoreless first inning before being replaced by lefty Adam Kolarek in the second. But Kolarek, who was pitching for the first time since Sept. 26, immediately fell into trouble after surrendering back-to-back singles to Eric Hosmer and Tommy Pham to put runners on the corners with no outs.
Kolarek retired Mitch Moreland on a groundout before Dodgers manager Dave Roberts ordered an intentional walk of Wil Myers to load the bases and set up a lefty-on-lefty matchup with Jake Cronenworth. The move backfired, however, as Cronenworth drew a walk to force in a run and tie the game, 1-1. Kolarek then induced a comebacker to record an out at home, but Trent Grisham followed with an RBI single to give the Padres a 2-1 lead.
Roberts subsequently summoned Urías to face Tatis, who struck out on four pitches to end the inning. The Dodgers responded by erupting for five runs in the top of the third, paving the way for their blowout victory over their NL West rivals.
“You can talk about the play of the game, it’s the first hitter he faced,” Roberts said of Urías. “There was a bases-loaded situation, and he punches Tatis. That could have been a different game. Right there, that just flipped the game.”
Roberts said he wasn’t sure how long he would stick with May, though it was clear that the young fireballer’s primary function was to handle Tatis and Manny Machado, the Padres’ top two hitters, and to entice San Diego to load up on lefty bats. Once May got through the top of the lineup, Roberts brought in Kolarek to face a pocket of lefties, though the Dodgers ultimately needed Urías to bail them out of the second-inning jam.
“It was kind of read and react,” Roberts said. “I just felt that Dustin had one, two innings. Maybe three at the most. I just felt that there was a good run after that for Kolarek, and then having Julio behind him, it just kind of went that way. There was nothing really kind of scripted. It was just we had guys that were just on line and good lanes for them.”
Urías biggest test came at the beginning of his outing, but the 24-year-old lefty deftly subdued Tatis, showing the “urgency from the first pitch” that Roberts feels has been key to his recent success.
“Obviously, he’s a really good hitter,” Urías said. “I think it’s just a matter of executing pitches. We have a good plan against him, and it was a matter of remaining focused. Thank God everything worked out.”
The only run the Padres scored off Urías came in the sixth, when Machado singled, advanced to third on an error by left fielder AJ Pollock and scored on a balk. Urías has allowed only one unearned run on four hits while striking out 11 over eight innings as the Dodgers’ bulk reliever this postseason, though he could potentially return to a more traditional starting role during the NLCS, which will be played without days off.
“It’s the same to me,” Urías said. “I’m available for whatever they need. It doesn’t matter if I’m starting or relieving. As long as we come out with a win, I’m willing to give whatever we need.”