The young and the old help Dodgers end losing streak with 4-0 win over Reds
The distance between the two men can be measured in milestones. When the Dodgers drafted Chase Utley in 1997, Julio Urias was a nine-month-old toddler in Culiacan, Mexico. When the Dodgers signed Urias in 2012, Utley had already made five All-Star teams, anchored the Phillies to five consecutive division titles and played a starring role in a World Series championship.
Seventeen years, seven months and 26 days separate the eldest member of the Dodgers roster from the youngest. In a 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, Utley paced the offense while Urias stymied his opponents. Utley provided a solo homer and an RBI single. Urias offered six scoreless innings.
The Dodgers (68-55) snapped a three-game losing streak and moved back into first place in the National League West, a half-game ahead of San Francisco.
Urias breathed life into a club desperate for a quality start. This weekend had been cruel to the veterans in the rotation. Bud Norris could not finish four innings on Friday. Brett Anderson collected nine outs Saturday. Urias did not follow that trend.
“It was huge, being able to have him out there for more than five innings,” catcher Yasmani Grandal said. “Huge confidence boost for him, as to knowing that he can go deeper into the game, knowing that he can compete up here. We definitely needed it.”
How much longer Urias will be able to pitch this season remains an unanswered question. With his outing Sunday, he crossed the 100-inning threshold for the first time in his career, with 102 now on his ledger. The Dodgers have not revealed how many he can throw this season, but it is reasonable to expect him to finish with somewhere between 120 and 130 innings.
So even after Urias bailed out the club Sunday, Manager Dave Roberts could not say whether he would remain in the starting rotation. Urias could start again as early as Friday against the Chicago Cubs. Or he could idle, as he had for seven days before Sunday, waiting for another opportunity.
“We’re right where we need to be, at this point, Aug. 21, going through September,” Roberts said. “And can use him, we feel, in any capacity. And that was the goal.”
Inside his dugout, hours before Urias threw his first pitch, Roberts sounded almost wistful about his desire from a competent outing from a starter.
“Obviously,” Roberts said, “we’re in a situation where any length would be good.”
Urias provided plenty. He scattered six singles. He struck out six and walked none. In the first inning, he picked off former Dodger Jose Peraza at first base. The play pushed Urias into a tie for the big league lead with five pickoffs this season. He pushed his pitch count to 97.
Urias credited backup catcher A.J. Ellis for helping him trust his slider, which he threw for strikes on Sunday. He praised Grandal for guiding him through the outing, especially because he lacked changeup command at the outset. He understood the importance of his outing, after the previous two days.
“I wanted to not only help my team win, but also [help] the bullpen, and go as long as possible,” Urias said.
Utley handed Urias a lead in the game’s first at-bat. Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani challenged Utley with a 2-1 fastball at the waist. Utley drilled the pitch into the right-field seats.
In the third, rookie outfielder Andrew Toles chopped a leadoff infield single. A bunt by Urias advanced Toles, who was called up in the morning. Toles raced home from second when Utley singled into right. Utley barged into second base when the Reds threw home.
Utley did not stay at second for long. Corey Seager shot a full-count fastball into left for an RBI single. The Dodgers manufactured a fourth run in the sixth inning, thanks to a single by Adrian Gonzalez, a double by Grandal and a sacrifice fly by Joc Pederson.
Urias limited traffic on the bases, but he fell into trouble in the sixth. With runners at the corners, he engaged in a six-pitch duel with slugging outfielder Adam Duvall. Duvall popped up a 94-mph fastball for the last out.
Urias headed for the dugout. Roberts embraced him. Now Urias will wait for his next assignment.
“It’s kind of hard, because he throws so well, and then gets taken out, here and there,” Seager said. “They sit him. Skip starts. It’s like, you want that on the mound when you can. You want to let him go as long as you can. Because that helps you win games, for sure.”
The team’s caution with Urias stems from both his age and his lack of usage in the past. He logged only 80 1/3 innings in 2015. A preternatural talent, Urias deserves to be treated with care. The Dodgers have tiptoed the line between preserving his health and allowing him to help the big league club.
On Sunday, an afternoon when the offense relied on the team’s oldest player, the youngest man on the roster made the largest contribution.
“It was something that we needed, for Julio to step up like that,” Roberts said. “And, obviously, Chase, to start the game with a homer, give us the lead.”
Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter @McCulloughTimes
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