Dodgers’ Julio Urias improves in second outing but not enough to beat the Cubs

Julio Urias pitches against the Cubs on Thursday.
(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

The teenager slinked off the mound as the ballpark rose in appreciation. The congregants at Wrigley Field did not stand to applaud Dodgers prospect Julio Urias as Thursday’s fifth inning ended, but to salute the monsters stashed in the home dugout, the Cubs who battered Urias in a 7-2 defeat.

The Dodgers survived three days with the Cubs, losing twice but avoiding a deluge. On the fourth day of this series, baseball’s best team unleashed its full force. Chicago whacked three home runs and scored six runs against Urias, a 19-year-old making his second career start.

“The big leagues is the big leagues,” Urias said through an interpreter after the game. “If you make a mistake, they’re going to make you pay.”

It is a hard truth that all young men must learn. Javier Baez, a 23-year-old infielder, supplied the first lesson, a two-run blast in the fourth. An inning later, outfielder Jason Heyward and third baseman Kris Bryant supplied solo shots on consecutive pitches. Urias recovered to complete the inning, a noble showing for a prospect, but little comfort for the team.


After a stirring weekend in New York, the Dodgers (28-27) dropped three of four in Chicago. The team returns to Dodger Stadium hoping to inflate its record with series against Atlanta and Colorado. Manager Dave Roberts would not commit to Urias making another start during the homestand, but the possibility exists.

With Urias, at least, there is reason for optimism. Roberts cannot say the same for his offense. The group mustered one hit here Monday, four Wednesday and three Thursday. Kyle Hendricks dominated the group for eight innings. The effort did not disappoint Roberts but the execution did.

“The consistency isn’t there, as far as putting the quality at-bats together as a unit,” Roberts said. “They’re there, then they’re not there. And this is a guy that some guys have some history against. They know what his game plan was going to be. We’ve got to be quicker to make adjustments.”

There is little Roberts can do to spark the group. He could rearrange the lineup by removing Justin Turner, now hitting .225, from the heart of the order. He could move up Trayce Thompson, who hit a solo home run and is now slugging .539. But these are only superficial changes for a teamwide malady.

Hendricks benefited from the Dodgers’ inability to find a rhythm. He struck out six.

“He moves the ball around the plate,” Thompson said. “He throws a lot of strikes. He gets us to get ourselves out a lot.”

The Cubs presented a more complex challenge for Urias (0-1, 9.39 ERA). He improved on his first start but still showed signs of youth. He did not repeat the eight-batter, three-run nightmare first inning he experienced against the Mets on Friday. After a bloop single by outfielder Dexter Fowler, Urias induced a pair of soft grounders. Chase Utley turned the second for a double play.

“I felt like my pitches were hitting the spots,” Urias said. “That’s what I liked about this outing.”

His luck turned in the second. It started with a walk to first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Umpire Nic Lentz refused to grant Urias the outer edge of the strike zone. Urias missed near the zone three times in an eight-pitch duel. With Adrian Gonzalez holding Rizzo at first, outfielder Jorge Soler rolled a single through the right side of the infield.

A 3-2 slider sent shortstop Addison Russell’s bat flying on a strikeout. But Urias left a slider over the middle for Baez. Joc Pederson bobbled the RBI single, which allowed Soler to reach third base. Soler scored on a groundout to give the Cubs a two-run lead.

The poor luck annoyed Urias. Two innings later, the Cubs stopped pestering him and started hammering him. Soler started the fourth with a single. Urias fed Baez a flat changeup. Baez pounded the first of the three home runs.

“When you elevate in the strike zone, there’s damage to be had,” Roberts said. “I think Julio is continuing to learn.”

The fifth inning was unkind to Urias. Heyward lined a fastball over the ivy in right. Bryant destroyed a belt-high curveball. His drive connected with the left-field scoreboard.

“Those pitches lacked control,” Urias said. “And they connected on them in the best way.”

Urias sounded upbeat despite his second ineffective outing. The Dodgers will huddle over the weekend to decide how to use him in the future. What discussion cannot solve, this season has shown, is the ineffectual offense. This week at Wrigley Field, the Cubs informed the Dodgers about the gap between the two clubs.

Twitter: @McCulloughTimes


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