The Dodgers’ 19-year-old, left-handed starter continued his improvement trend -- after his struggles in his May 27 debut at New York -- and there really was nowhere to go but up.
On Sunday, four starts into what is expected to be a brilliant major league career, the Mexico native had his best outing so far. He looked more like the pitcher who came to the major leagues with 27 consecutive scoreless innings at Triple-A.
This being the major leagues, though, scoreless streaks of that magnitude are far harder to come by. Urias did his best Sunday against the San Francisco Giants, but facing what would have been his last batter of the game regardless, Urias gave up a two-run home run to Brandon Belt in the sixth inning, and the Dodgers dropped a 2-1 ulcer-maker.
“Sunday Night Baseball, biggest rival, pennant race starting to take form,” catcher A.J. Ellis said afterward. “For him to step in and throw the ball the way he did for 5 1/3 was phenomenal. The mix, the ability to finish guys with his fastball -- a lot of life on the ball today.”
The Dodgers were far more interested in the positives than the pitch that got away. For the record, it was a flat slider, the least effective offering in the youngster’s four-pitch mix.
As a reward for the fine effort, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed that Urias will indeed get another start this week, likely Friday at home against the Milwaukee Brewers. Roberts even said that he would be willing to bump up Urias’ pitch count to 90-100 pitches, from the 80-90 it had been at for his first four outings.
Whether the offense shows up this time is another story. The Dodgers' lone run Sunday came on a McCovey Cove blast from Joc Pederson. They also lost by a run Saturday after going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
“I think we’ve had a lot of games where we’ve scored zero or one run,” said Adrian Gonzalez, who went 0-for-4 Sunday after making his last out on a bunt attempt in the ninth inning with no runners on base. “I don’t know. Today, it felt like a day when a lot of guys hit the ball hard. I guess you can call it bad aim. [Justin Turner] hit the ball hard three times and didn’t get a hit. Sometimes baseball just doesn’t go your way.”
Turner not only went 0-for-4, but he was ejected by home-plate umpire Mike Muchlinski in the eighth inning arguing a called third strike.
Gonzalez said Muchlinski missed some pitches to both himself and Turner in the game, and said there were likely more.
“Obviously he wasn’t on his A game, but I haven’t taken a look to see if he gave our pitcher pitches or took them away,” Gonzalez said. “It just feels like there are certain places that you go and umpires are always going to be one-sided, and this is one of them. Yankee Stadium, there are certain places you go where the crowd plays a factor. But we’ve dealt with that and we definitely think we can win through that, and that was definitely not the reason we lost today.”
Manager Dave Roberts was at a loss for words to explain the offense’s issues.
“That’s a hard one; I don’t have an answer,” Roberts said. “I know that it’s not from a lack of preparation or lack of talent within the group. I think for us, it’s just a matter of staying the course and continue to try to improve and get results because at some point you have to find a way to score some runs.”
A record that is barely over .500, at 33-31, is not the fault of the pitching staff that has only gotten better as the season has progressed. The Dodgers were fourth in the major leagues with a 3.34 ERA and second with a .215 opponents’ batting average. They were also second with 579 strikeouts. And that was before Urias added another seven strikeouts to those marks.
“That’s a big positive for tonight,” Roberts said. “Julio -- the swing and miss, just the command of his pitches and some strikeouts and to give us what he gave us was great. He did everything and more that we needed to win a game. We talk about the stage that he’s on. To rise to the occasion was special.”
“Being with this team helps me a lot, and I think the next time it’s only going to get better,” Urias said afterward through an interpreter.
One day, he might actually get his first victory -- if the offense can give him any love.
“Julio is definitely getting better in every outing, getting comfortable and throwing the ball better, so I’m proud of him,” Gonzalez said.