The Dodgers finally lost Walker Buehler Monday afternoon.
However, their 4-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night was a reminder that they may have another ace up their sleeve.
Hours after the team announced that Buehler would have elbow surgery next week, Julio Urías helped cushion the blow by going through five shutout innings to continue a second-half run as good as almost any pitcher in baseball .
In his last six starts, Urías has recorded a .95 ERA and a perfect 6-0 record. He’s revived with his fastball and an all-important ability to break out of traffic jams.
Early in the season, he may not have been the obvious candidate to anchor the rotation after Buehler was listed as an opening day starter and Clayton Kershaw re-signed with the club as a free agent.
But with Buehler now done for the year, Kershaw continuing to nurse another back injury, and the rest of the Dodgers pitching team lacking extensive postseason starting experience, there might not be a more important pitcher in the Dodgers’ clubhouse than the 26-year-old left-hander — the manager Dave Roberts believes his performance has reached a new level over the past month.
“It’s the consistency,” Roberts said. “I think every starter is going to have some bad ones and that happens. But the elite guys, their really bad guys, aren’t that bad and they still give you some length.”
That was the case with Urías on Monday evening.
Lacking his normal command early on, he started the first inning with a walk and a single. He gave the leadoff man another base hit in the second. In the third, the first two batters made it back to base.
Still, Urías escaped the jam every time, burying the middle of the Brewers order in the first, picking a double-play grounder in the second, and knocking out a couple of batsmen in the third.
“I thought it was a grind,” Roberts said. “But if he had to pitch, he did.”
At some point, Urías started lip syncing.
In the fourth inning, he landed with a single and four times surpassed 96 mph with his fastball — something he hadn’t even managed in his first 22 starts this season.
In the fifth, he ended his outing by retiring the team and fielding the Dodgers (80-34) to complete their 10th shutout of the campaign and become the first team in baseball to reach the 80-win plateau.
“It wasn’t my best night,” Urías said in Spanish, “but we still got through five innings and we still won the game, which is the most important thing.”
Even after battling the Brewers (61-53) on Monday, Urías not only looks like the Dodgers’ best pitcher, but one of the hottest arms in the majors.
His 0.95 ERA since July 16 — the first of his dominant six-start streak — ranks third among qualified big leagues, behind only Dylan Cease and Blake Snell. His 38 innings in that span is also the third most, behind Max Scherzer and Logan Webb.
And no one can match Urías’ unblemished record at this stretch, having received run assist in the first run with a Freddie Freeman solo home run, fifth with a sacrifice fly from Will Smith, and second run with Gavin Lux in opposing field sixth.
On the season, Urías is now 13-6 with a 2.40 ERA, more than half a heat down from last year when he finished seventh in Cy Young Award voting.
“I know he’s not an all-star,” Freeman said of Urías, who was disqualified from this year’s Midsummer Classic, “but I think we have to get closer to the Cy Young race here. … The left arm doesn’t often come around like that.”
Even after his performance in the 2021 regular season, the Dodgers still put Urías in a hybrid role last October.
When the playoffs roll around this year, however, they may have no choice but to hope he can help carry the rotation.
Lately he’s been looking more than capable of doing it.
“He was a constant for us,” said Roberts. “So if you have a guy at the head of the rotation who can do what he does and for the most part spell the bullpen and put us in a position to win every time he takes the mound, surely that is helpful. That’s what he became.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-08-15/dodgers-vs-brewers-recap-julio-urias Dodgers blank Brewers behind ace-worthy outing from Julio Urías