Urías' head-scratching season continues: 'Today, he just wasn’t right'

September 2nd, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers had one of their best months in franchise history in August, going 24-5. The first day of September, however, wasn’t so kind to the Dodgers.

Left-hander struggled for the second consecutive start, allowing five runs over five innings in the Dodgers’ 6-3 loss to the Braves on Friday at Dodger Stadium. With the loss, the Dodgers fell six games behind the Braves in the race for home-field advantage in the National League.

Just a few weeks ago it appeared Urías, one of the best pitchers in the NL over the last two seasons, had finally gotten back to the form that turned him into one of the elite starters in the Majors.

Over his first four starts in August, the Mexican left-hander was dominant, going 4-0 with a 1.44 ERA. Urías’ start to August gave the Dodgers a much-needed boost in the rotation. But over his last two outings, Urías hasn’t been as sharp, allowing 11 runs over 11 innings of work. It has been a continuation of what has been a head-scratching campaign for the 27-year-old.

“Obviously I didn’t pitch the way that I wanted to pitch,” Urías said in Spanish. “I gave it all my all, but I failed and now I just have to pitch better the next time out.”

On Friday, Urías’ inability to keep the Braves in the ballpark was ultimately what doomed him and the Dodgers. Urías gave up a solo homer to Travis d’Arnaud in the second inning to open the scoring. In the third, it was Ronald Acuna Jr. that greeted Urías with a solo homer of his own, continuing to make his case for NL MVP in front of fellow contenders Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. 

In the fourth, it was Marcell Ozuna’s time to take Urías deep on a four-seam fastball that was left down the heart of the plate. Over his last two games, Urías has given up six homers and 24 on the season. Last year, Urías allowed just 23 homers en route to an NL ERA title. 

“Julio wasn’t sharp,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “There were a lot of pitches middle-middle. There wasn’t a whole lot of chase or swing-and-miss. Obviously these guys can hit it out of the ballpark. If you make a mistake, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Over his last five starts of the regular season, a lot of the focus will be on Urías and how he’s performing heading into October. In order for the Dodgers to have the best shot to win a World Series, they’ll need Urías at his best.

“I think that even tonight we talk about being able to take down 15, 18 outs, it’s important,” Roberts said. “He’s a guy we count on to do that. He understands that. The last couple just haven’t been ideal. … I just think today he just wasn’t right from the outset.”

While Urías’ outing put the Dodgers in an early hole, the offense was also held quiet most of the night against Braves ace Max Fried, who struck out a season-high 10 batters over seven dominant innings. The Dodgers’ offense hasn’t been neutralized much over the last month, but Fried had every pitch working on Friday.

It wasn’t until Fried exited the game that the Dodgers made their nightly comeback attempt. Even with Roberts electing to take Betts, Freeman and Max Muncy out of the game in the later frames, the Dodgers didn’t go down without a fight against the Braves’ bullpen. 

Kolten Wong, who signed a Minor League deal with Los Angeles after getting designated for assignment by Seattle, was added to the active roster on Friday and made an impact right away. In his first at-bat in Los Angeles, Wong smashed a three-run homer against right-hander Pierce Johnson in the eighth.

A few batters later, the Dodgers had the tying run at the plate in Chris Taylor, but the utility man struck out swinging on a high fastball. 

The four-game set against the Braves was always going to be a strong test for the Dodgers. In the first two games of the series, the difference has been the quality of the innings thrown by the starting pitchers. 

“I think we can do a better job of preventing runs than we’ve shown in these two games,” Roberts said. "But, yeah, their starting pitching you could argue might be the best in baseball.”