Urias rises to occasion in fourth MLB start

June 13th, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO -- Dodgers 19-year-old rookie Julio Urias rarely missed in Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Giants, striking out a career-high seven in his most encouraging start of the season.

But one of his lone mistakes swung the series finale and overshadowed that strong performance, as he hung a slider in the sixth inning to Brandon Belt that promptly became a two-run homer. The miscue paved the way for the Giants to win the weekend series and go up five games over the Dodgers in the National League West.

"It was just a slider that stayed there," Urias said through an interpreter. "Like I've said before, I can miss once, but the second time, I can't miss."

Belt was the last batter Urias faced, which manager Dave Roberts said was the plan regardless of the outcome. Los Angeles has kept Urias on a strict pitch count as he develops stamina in the Majors, and he departed having thrown 86 pitches. Roberts noted that Urias had struck out Belt twice prior to the home run.

"I wanted him to get through Belt," Roberts said. "It wasn't a terrible pitch. It got a little too much of the plate."

But Roberts hoped the miscue didn't overshadow what was a positive outing for Urias, who allowed just four hits -- two of which came in his final inning -- and navigated the first five frames with relative ease, only running into serious trouble in the second, when Justin Turner lost a pop fly in the sun. Urias worked around it, stranding two runners in scoring position.

"That's a big positive for tonight," Roberts said. "To give us what he gave us was great. He did everything and more that we needed tonight to win a game. We talked about the stage that he's on. To rise to the occasion tonight was special."

"Sunday night baseball, [against our] biggest rival, a pennant race is starting to take form ... For him to step in and throw the way he did today for 5 1/3 innings was phenomenal," said catcher A.J. Ellis.

Urias attacked with his fastball early, showcasing a mid-90s heater while mixing in a curveball that put several Giants on their front foot. If he was rattled by the pressure -- he was making only his fourth career start -- he didn't show it.

"I think there's a confidence that he belongs," Ellis said. "He has a desire to attack hitters and challenge hitters."

"Being with the team helps me a lot," Urias said, "and I think next time it will get better."

Roberts said that Urias will make his next scheduled start, and estimated that his pitch count would be within 90 and 100 pitches. With injured starters Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu only beginning rehab assignments -- both are at least four rehab starts from rejoining the rotation -- the Dodgers will continue to seek rotational help.

They can only hope Urias continues to rise to the occasion.