The same Julio Urías, the same dominant weapon the Dodgers have seen emerging since last summer, took to the mound Tuesday night. He was electric again, continuing a year-long streak of becoming one of the top starting pitchers in the major leagues.
What was different Tuesday at Oracle Park, when he sliced through the San Francisco Giants six innings before being unlucky in the seventh, was his place in the Dodgers’ plans.
Urias’ postseason role isn’t uncertain this time around — not after the Dodgers failed to get a starting pitcher before Tuesday’s close. From the looks of it, he’s not a character who’ll switch between the starting rotation and the bullpen in October. He’s a real starter. He could be the ace the club needs.
“He’s really important,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts ahead of the Dodgers’ 3-0 win. “Obviously what he did and executed and how he performed as a starting pitcher, the momentum and the miss, the length, the efficiency, the stuff. So yeah, we’re counting on Julio, absolutely.”
Urías, 25, has turned his potential into reality as a teenager over the past 13 months, posting the lowest ERA in the majors since July 1 of last year. The serious injuries are behind him. He is one of the most important players in the Dodgers roster. On Wednesday he provided further evidence.
The left-hander limited the Giants to four hits with six strikeouts and no walks over six scoreless innings until he delivered three singles — two that didn’t leave the infield — to start the seventh at Oracle Park.
He was visibly angry at his bad luck when Roberts showed up to pull him 3-0 up after 96 pitches and handed the ball to Roberts without looking at him on the way off the field. Roberts decided to play it safe.
It was the right move: Evan Phillips slipped out of the jam with the help of the Giants’ bone-headed baserun. In the end, Urías’ ERA had fallen to 2.57 that season, the fourth-best mark in the National League. He’s leveled up in his last four starts, giving up three runs in 26 innings behind a fastball that’s picked up pace since the season began.
“We made some adjustments during my bullpens,” Urías said. “And I feel like that’s been a key to the results lately.”
The Dodgers entered the majors on Wednesday with the top starter ERA (2.81) and second best starter FIP (3.49). There is no glaring hole in their rotation a year after losing Trevor Bauer to a suspension and taking on Max Scherzer as a replacement.
But there are questions about the current group.
Injuries have limited Andrew Heaney to five starts. Tony Gonsolin shows cracks after an unforeseen first All-Star half. Tyler Anderson has never served in a playoff game. Clayton Kershaw has spent a month on the injured list with a back injury after suffering a bad elbow at the end of last season that nearly required surgery from Tommy John.
As such, the front office would have preferred to trade for a starting pitcher on the front line – in addition to outfielder Juan Soto – by the close of trading to bolster the group. Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas and Pablo López cited the options available. But the team found the market too expensive. Castillo went to the Seattle Mariners. Montas was sent to the New York Yankees. Lopez stayed with the Miami Marlins.
On Tuesday, Dodger’s president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman nonetheless projected confidence in his pitching team, pointing to the talent on the injured list that should improve the bunch in any combination for the playoffs.
Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen, Victor González, Tommy Kahnle and Danny Duffy are all pitchers the Dodgers believe have a shot at getting back on the track.
“We have a really talented group that has a combination of these guys coming back and it’s really high-end to add that quality to the guys that we have now,” Friedman said. “It just spoke for having a high bar. We feel really good about the potential of what our pitching staff can see coming October. We don’t rely on everyone to come back and be great.”
Roberts echoed Friedman Wednesday.
“It’s collective,” Roberts said. “It’s about the pitching staff. And if you’re talking about winning a game or 11 games in October, we just think that with the pitcher mix we have, we can stop runs for 27 outs. And there’s no way to do it. It’s essentially just trust how we can achieve this together.”
Of those seven pitchers on the IL, only Buehler and May are starters but can return as relievers. The others, if healthy and effective, could help relieve rotation.
May made his third start in rehab with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday. The hard-throwing right-hander, who underwent surgery from Tommy John last May, gave up a two-hit run with six strikeouts over four innings. He has given up two runs with 15 strikeouts in nine innings in his three starts. Roberts said he expects May to make one more before returning to the Dodgers.
Buehler’s prognosis is much more vague. He started throwing less than two weeks ago, six weeks after being sidelined with a flexor tendon strain. There probably won’t be enough time to build him up for more than three or four innings before the postseason. A relief roll is on the table.
“I think anything is possible,” Friedman said. “A lot depends on when he leaves the hill and when that progress begins.”
Buehler cemented himself as a playoff star in his first four seasons. He was given the start in Game 1 in 2020 and again in 2021. 2022 will be Urías’ turn if he stays on course.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-08-03/julio-urias-becoming-ace-dodgers-need-giants-recap Julio Urías is fast becoming the ace the Dodgers need