The 2022 Dodgers secured a place in club history Wednesday night by winning a franchise-record 107th game.
And fittingly, they had perhaps their most important player – and certainly pitcher – on the mound to do so.
In a season marred by injuries and near-constant transfers to the Dodgers, Julio Urías continued to be the anchor, his ace of staff, turning six scoreless innings to his in the Dodgers’ 1-0 win over the San Diego Padres to cement a spot at the top of the team’s rotation as the playoffs near.
Although Freddie Freeman’s RBI single in the top of the 10th and Tommy Kahnle’s save in the bottom half secured the Dodgers’ record win, it was Urías’ performance that boded the best for their postseason prospects.
Next, Urías will take the mound Tuesday in the Dodgers’ penultimate regular-season game against the Colorado Rockies. According to manager Dave Roberts, Clayton Kershaw will contest the season finale the next day, putting Kershaw behind Urías, who makes the playoffs.
Up to this point, Roberts was reluctant to name Urías as the Dodgers starter for Game 1 of the National League Division Series, which will begin Oct. 11 at Dodger Stadium.
On Wednesday, he only confirmed that Urías and Kershaw would be the starters of Games 1 and 2, in a specific order.
“We’re in a situation where I don’t think we can go wrong,” Roberts said. “We can postpone it if we see fit.”
However, the Dodgers will soon have to make a decision.
And unless they decide to change the pitching order during their five-day hiatus from the NLDS, it will be the 26-year-old left-hander with the NL’s best ERA to throw the first pitches of a championship-or-bust postseason.
“My full focus is on the next start against Colorado,” Urías said through an interpreter. “After that, we’ll have the conversation.”
On Wednesday, Urías certainly looked good, streaking six singles and two walks while repeatedly working his way out of danger — including two-on-one-out jams in the first and second innings and a runners-on-the-corner , an out situation in the sixth.
The outing lowered his NL-leading ERA to 2.17.
There was also another confidence boost as the regular season wraps up, with Urías proving once again that he has developed into the kind of pitcher the Dodgers can be sure to count on in October.
“He deserves it,” Roberts said. “And not even this year. Last year the lengthening of the leash started. But this year [it’s been] the way he’s been efficient, the way he’s managed innings, the way he’s taking care of himself, preparing, all that stuff. And of course performance.”
After being confined to a hybrid role early in his career due to injuries and inconsistencies, Urías began to thrive around mid-last season. He simplified his mechanics by switching to a full-time stretch delivery. He has unlocked more reliable command and life with his arsenal.
After a 1.71 ERA in his last 13 starts of 2021, while becoming baseball’s only 20-game winner, Urías has used another strong second half of this season to get himself into the Cy Young Award controversy overthrow.
Not only does he hold the NL’s best ERA, but he’s also second among qualified pitchers in the league in wins (he stayed 17-7) and batting average, third in walks and hits per inning, and eighth in strikeout-to-walk Relationship.
Only his 18th place finish in 170 innings likely keeps him behind Cy Young’s favorite Sandy Alcantara of the Miami Marlins.
“I’m not worried about the things that people say or the awards or anything like that,” Urías said. “I just focus on my work.”
Still, Roberts says he feels like Urías is being overlooked in the national conversation, echoing what has become an often-cited connection Wednesday between Urías’ overlooked status and the pitcher’s renewed intensity both during and between each game.
“I think for me there is a little [of a feeling] that he was insulted by the industry,” Roberts said. “So I think there’s something in there, that competitor in you that wants to prove everyone wrong.”
The Dodgers haven’t always treated Urías like an ace, of course.
Despite his strong finish last year, the team placed him third in their postseason rotation and then toyed with his use in October, putting him behind an opener in Game 5 of the NLDS and then knocking him out of the game in a disastrous relief effort Bullpen bet in Game 2 of the NLCS.
Roberts said he didn’t think Urías was motivated by such decisions. Urías never raised this publicly.
Still, it’s clear Urías will be asked to take on a much bigger responsibility this postseason – one in which Roberts said the team had no plans to pull him out of the bullpen or change his role in the rotation.
Instead, they finally seem ready to treat Urías like a real ace and will very likely make him their starter in Game 1.
“I want to focus on ending this season well, playing one more game and doing my best,” Urías said. “We’ll see what happens from there.”
After being sidelined for almost two months with an elbow injury, helper Yency Almonte returned on Wednesday with a scoreless eighth inning. Phil Bickford was placed on the injured list due to shoulder fatigue on a relevant play.
Justin Turner is likely to be out for a few days due to a swelling in his left lower leg. The problem arose during a doubleheader against the Arizona Diamondbacks last week and was exacerbated on a slide during Tuesday’s game in San Diego.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-09-28/dodgers-padres-gamer-mlb-recap Dodgers shut out Padres for franchise-record 107th win