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Urías' start exactly what Dodgers needed

@kengurnick
October 15, 2020

Julio Urías, an October star for the Dodgers. What a change from a year ago. Urías was the Dodgers’ Game 3 starter and winner Wednesday night, allowing only one run in five innings of a 15-3 blowout against the Braves in the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field.

Julio Urías, an October star for the Dodgers. What a change from a year ago.

Urías was the Dodgers’ Game 3 starter and winner Wednesday night, allowing only one run in five innings of a 15-3 blowout against the Braves in the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field. He’s 3-0 this postseason -- two of the wins coming in multi-inning relief appearances -- after going 3-0 in his first regular season in the starting rotation.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 12 ATL 5, LAD 1 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 13 ATL 8, LAD 7 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 14 LAD 15, ATL 3 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 15 ATL 10, LAD 2 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 16 LAD 7, ATL 3 Watch
Gm 6 Oct. 17 LAD 3, ATL 1 Watch
Gm 7 Oct. 18 LAD 4, ATL 3 Watch

“I’m happy we put together this win,” said Urías. “I had a little bit of a cushion, but you have to stay focused and fight and try to give 100 percent, and luckily, I made it to the fifth inning and gave the bullpen a rest.”

After Tony Gonsolin was summoned to pitch in Game 2 due to a late scratch of Clayton Kershaw (back spasms), the Dodgers needed Urías to control Game 3 so they could bring back Kershaw to start Game 4 and have Dustin May available for Game 5.

When Urías walked the first two batters with an 11-run lead -- following a 32-minute wait and an extended warm-up -- the plan seemed to be on shaky footing.

“It’s no surprise that he got through it,” said manager Dave Roberts. “He settled down, he kept making pitches. He knew we needed some length out of him. To get him through five, to get him to 100 pitches was good. He finished a lot better than he started.”

The final total of 101 pitches marked a career high for Urías, and his fifth career postseason victory tied Dodgers legend Fernando Valenzuela for most by a Mexican pitcher. Roberts said he was not tempted to pull the lefty and save more bullets for later in the series after the Dodgers blew the game open in the first inning. Urías could still be used in relief.

“Getting other guys not pitching was important as well,” Roberts said. “He’ll have a couple of days off, and we’ll see where he’s at then. We wanted to get through this game. For him to find his way and to pitch well I thought has a lot of value. I don’t think right now we’re worried about Game 7. He did exactly what we needed.”

After management let veterans Hyun Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill leave, Urías was promoted to the rotation, not as a reward but as a challenge. Once one of the top pitching prospects in the game, he was at a crossroads in a story blemished by injury and his 20-game suspension under MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy in 2019.

When Urías returned from the suspension, he wasn’t fit enough to handle a starter’s role down the stretch. Ultimately, that led the Dodgers to go into Game 4 of the 2019 NL Division Series with Hill, who was pitching with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and lasted only 2 2/3 innings.

15 stats, facts from NLCS Game 3

When he did pitch in last year’s NLDS, Urías was roughed up, allowing three runs across 3 2/3 innings in three relief outings, all against the Nationals. Among the challenges of 2019 was adjusting to the role of swingman.

“It’s not easy to come in with the mentality of being a reliever or being a starter,” Urías said. “You just have to stay positive, have a good attitude and try to have fun and remember that feeling as a kid that you love being out there, you love to pitch and just do my job.”

Urías, 24, has not had the luxury of flying under the radar. He was signed by Mike Brito on his 16th birthday while the Dodgers were pursuing Yasiel Puig. Urías debuted at 19, underwent left shoulder capsule surgery at 21 and throughout his career has had innings limitations -- early on because of his youth, then due to injury.

As a Mexican left-hander with poise and advanced off-speed pitches, Urías was compared to Valenzuela. As a lefty with heat and a repeatable delivery, he was compared to Kershaw. In 2016, MLB Pipeline listed Urías as the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.