Can Dodgers trust Julio Urias to deliver in biggest moments?

Fame was expected of him since he was a 16-year-old dominating much older opponents in the lower tiers of the minor leagues.

The decade between then and now has been both an exercise in patience and a series of triumphs. The Dodgers placed him in a protective bladder in a failed attempt to protect his arm, and later claimed they even considered him a frontline starter, although their use of him indicated they didn’t.

On Tuesday evening, Julio Urías was finally given the responsibility he had wanted to shoulder for all these years.

The result was… well, inconclusive.

Urías started Game 1 of their National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres, serving with an extra swing that made him virtually unbeatable early on.

He retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced in the Dodgers’ 5-3 win.

His fastball was a tad higher. He hit the edges of the plate. He changed the tempo of his performance to disrupt the rhythms of the Padres’ already overwhelmed hitters.

Urías was masterful – until he wasn’t anymore.

Each of the three runs he gave up was scored by the Padres in the fifth inning. He handed a home run to Wil Myers. He dropped a single to Jake Cronenworth, who later scored in a Trent Grisham groundout. He also doubled down to Ha-Seong Kim, who was eventually herded in by Austin Nola on a sacrificial fly.

What was a 5-0 lead at the start of the inning was reduced to 5-3.

The triple surge marked the early end of the night for Urías, who was taken out of the game with just 79 pitches. The bullpen had to cover the last four innings, which could endanger manager Dave Roberts later in the series.

The Dodgers do not have a #4 starter. Also, there is only one day off between games 2 and 3 in this series.

Urías’ final line: five innings, three runs, four hits, no walks and six strikeouts – not catastrophic, but not what a team with 111 wins would expect from its #1 start.

The game marked the first time since July 10 that Urías gave up more than two runs in one start. He finished the season with 14 consecutive starts in which he limited opponents to two runs or fewer.

Urías should have the opportunity to demonstrate that the start was an anomaly, either in a winner-takes-all Game 5 of this series or in the NL Championship Series. The game could define, as viewed, a high-stakes event for a pitcher who will be a free agent by the end of next season.

Tuesday night’s game counted for Urías’ 23rd postseason appearance of his career, but only his sixth start.

So he’d been here before, just not like this.

Whether it was because they were trying to spare his arm, taking advantage of his ability to be relieved, or because they lacked confidence in him, the Dodgers had previously been reluctant to treat Urías like he was one of baseball’s best .

He was recovering from serious shoulder surgery.

Didn’t matter.

He had recorded the finale of their 2020 World Series title win.

Didn’t matter.

He had won 20 games last year.

Still doesn’t matter.

Roberts practically sabotaged Urías’ chances of making the All-Star team, wondering aloud if he could be left out because the Dodgers had too many other players to honor.

But the organization’s view of Urías gradually improved as the season progressed, perhaps out of necessity.

Walker Buehler underwent reconstructive elbow surgery and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. The Dodgers have not acquired Luis Castillo or any other frontline pitcher at the close of trading.

They had no choice but to turn to Urías, who finished the season with a 17-7 record and an NL-best 2.16 earned run average.

Looking back on his arduous journey to becoming the team’s first starter, Urías said: “I think that’s the beautiful part and the most important and what I can get the most out of. Of course I’ve been through a lot of things, a lot of good, a lot of bad, but at the end of the day there’s always opportunity, that moment you prepare for. I think it would be best to make the most of it.”

He did that for just four innings on Tuesday night. If the Dodgers are to win the World Series, more will be needed. Can Dodgers trust Julio Urias to deliver in biggest moments?

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