Dodgers rookie Julio Urias makes case to Dave Roberts
The Dodgers checked off three important boxes in a 9-4 victory over the San Diego Padres on Thursday night, pounding left-handed pitching, regaining the edge they lost since Sunday’s division-clinching victory and keeping their hopes for home-field advantage in the first round alive.
But one significant box, the one indicating who might start Game 4 of the National League division series against the Washington Nationals, remained empty despite Julio Urias’ best effort to claim the spot with three scoreless, one-hit, five-strikeout innings in Petco Park.
“I’m not sure about the start,” Manager Dave Roberts said, when asked if Urias has earned a playoff rotation spot. “We still have to talk internally and make a decision, but I think he’s made a strong case to be on the postseason roster in some capacity.”
Urias, who has a 1.99 earned-run average in 402/3 innings over his last 10 appearances, escaped a first-and-third, one-out jam in the first inning by getting Yangervis Solarte to fly to medium right and rookie Hunter Renfroe, who clubbed three homers and drove in 11 runs in the first two games of the series, to ground to second.
“He wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen, but Julio still finds a way to miss bats and make pitches when he needs to,” Roberts said. “If you had one word to sum up Julio, it’s poise. Regardless of the situation, the environment, having his A stuff or not, he still finds a way to get major league hitters out.”
The Dodgers have announced their first three playoff starters — Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda.
With Jose De Leon taking himself out of the running for a Game 4 start with Wednesday night’s 21/3-inning, three-run, four-hit struggle against the Padres, Roberts appears to have two choices for Game 4: Urias or Kershaw on short rest.
The former would push Urias’ workload to an uncomfortable area; Urias, the future ace, has thrown 122 innings between the major leagues and minor leagues, up from 801/3 innings last year and already beyond agent Scott Boras’ preferred increase of between 30-40 innings.
The latter is not as appealing as it was in Octobers past, because Kershaw missed 21/2 months from late June to early September because of a herniated disk in his lower back.
“We’ll see,” Roberts said. “We have some nice options.”
The Dodgers entered Thursday with a major league-worst .214 average and .629 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers, but they roughed up Padres left-handers Christian Friedrich and Jose Torres for five runs and eight hits in six innings and improved to 22-21 against left-handed starters.
San Diego scored twice off reliever Jesse Chavez in the fourth, but the Dodgers pulled to within 2-1 in the fifth when Rob Segedin tripled off Friedrich and Joc Pederson doubled to left-center, snapping a four-game string in which the Dodgers went 0 for 23 with runners in scoring positioin.
Charlie Culberson led off the sixth with a double to right and scored on Justin Turner’s single to center for a 2-2 tie.
Yasiel Puig doubled to left, putting runners on second and third. Segedin walked to load the bases with two outs. Torres replaced Friedrich and threw a wild pitch, allowing Turner to score. Pederson then drove a two-run double off the base of the center-field wall for a 5-2 lead.
“The narrative has been we don’t hit left-handers, but I just got wind that we have a winning record against lefties,” Roberts said. “I think we’re trending in the right direction.”
Carlos Ruiz added a two-run double in the seventh, Andre Ethier had a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth, Andrew Toles singled in a run in the ninth and the Dodgers went six for 16 with runners in scoring position to snap a two-game losing streak and build some momentum going into a season-ending series at San Francisco — and beyond.
“When we go to San Francisco, they’re playing for something, so it’s gonna be very heated, very energetic. I think that will infuse some good things into our team as well.”
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