Urías' gem in AZ an inspiration for LLWS countrymen

August 9th, 2023

PHOENIX -- As the Dodgers took batting practice ahead of their series opener against the D-backs, the Mexico Little League Intermediate team watched in the distance and soaked in the Major League atmosphere.

Austin Barnes and the recently called-up Victor González -- both of whom represented Mexico in the World Baseball Classic -- chatted up and signed autographs for the team, which this past week reached the International Championship of the 2023 Intermediate (50/70) Baseball World Series in Livermore, Calif.

A couple of hours later, the youngsters from La Liga Mario Mendoza de Navojoa, Sonora, were treated to a gem from fellow paisano , en route to the Dodgers’ 5-4 win over the D-backs. The Sinaloa native held Arizona scoreless over six innings, allowing four hits and striking out five.

“It’s always a blessing being able to represent the Mexican community,” Urías said in Spanish. “I know that we’re in Arizona, but I feel like wherever I pitch I can feel the energy of some of the Mexican fans, it’s always there. It’s something I’ve noticed this season, and it’s a great feeling.”

Urías has a tradition of being quiet on days he is pitching, so he didn’t speak to the Little Leaguers before the game. However, he did have a message for the team.

“Have fun,” Urías said. “Little League is the best time for a player because you’re just focused on enjoying the experience. It doesn’t matter the rival, it doesn’t matter the state or where you’re from. It’s all about having fun.”

“They were excited,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who was able to talk to the players and coaches. “To see one of their heroes pitch and throw the baseball well was, I know, a joy for them.”

After striking out Christian Walker in the sixth inning, Urías pounded his glove excitedly and got a standing ovation from a Dodger-heavy crowd in Phoenix.

It was a well-deserved celebration for him. After posting a 6.23 ERA in July, Urías has responded in his first two starts of August by not allowing a run. He was upset after his start on July 19 in Baltimore, where he gave up eight earned runs to the Orioles. Urías made sure to not let the rough stretch define who he is as a pitcher by focusing on the little things in his arsenal.

“I think going through small changes like those are big changes,” Urías said through a translator. “Especially when you're doing what I'm trying to do, like those big changes and talking to [pitching coach Mark] Prior and [assistant pitching coach Connor] McGuiness. And doing those changes like you see the results, and that's what I've been doing lately.”

His 4.48 ERA this season isn’t what the Dodgers are used to seeing from the lefty who led the MLB in wins in 2021 and ERA  in '22, but Urías heating up at this point in the season will be crucial with the Dodgers currently sitting in first place of the National League West with a five-game cushion.

“He wanted to pitch deeper in the game, you could see that,” Roberts said. “[He was] efficient, attacking the strike zone. I thought the fastball had a life to it that we're accustomed to seeing. I thought tonight the changeup really played to a lot of right-handed hitters.”

David Peralta was a critical factor in Urias’ scoreless performance, as the 35-year-old robbed Carson Kelly of a two-run homer to end the fifth inning.

“[I’m] trying to do whatever we can to help the team to win, of course, it was something really special,” Peralta said. “You don’t get the opportunity to make that catch every day. You have to take it.” 

Kiké Hernández gave Urías an early lead to work with in the second inning when he drove in Peralta on a double, but it wasn’t until the fifth inning that the Dodgers erupted for three runs. Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman hit back-to-back RBI doubles and Max Muncy scored Freeman later in the inning with a sacrifice fly. 

Betts knocked in his second run of the night in the ninth inning, which was the game-winning score for Los Angeles.