Dodgers’ Julio Urías does what he’s asked, and against Brewers that meant putting up zeros
As dominant as the Dodgers looked early Wednesday, and as comfortably as they closed out a 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card round, there were several moments in the middle innings their superiority came under threat.
Between the third and sixth, the offense went cold. In the fourth, a three-run lead was cut to one after Milwaukee shortstop Orlando Arcia’s two-run home run. In each of the three innings that followed, the Brewers put the tying run aboard. Twice, a runner got to second.
It had all the ingredients for another potential Dodgers postseason collapse.
“After the Arcia home run,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said, “we’re one swing away.”
But each time the Brewers threatened, Julio Urías slammed the door in their face. In perhaps his best postseason appearance yet, throwing a playoff career-best three scoreless innings in relief, the left-hander kept the Dodgers ahead.
Fourteen photos that capture Game 1 of the National League wild-card series between the Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.
“Julio’s one of those guys that’s always battled,” Buehler said. “I think people forget how young Julio is, how talented he is, how impressive he was for so long. I love being around Julio and watching him and learning from him even. He’s young. He’s younger than I am. But he’s been here a lot longer than me.”
That experience was needed Wednesday, as Urías made his annual postseason switch from rotation to bullpen. It’s a role he’s served since his rookie season in 2016, with 12 of his 13 career playoff appearances coming as a reliever.
“He was great,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I give him so much credit for being open to whatever we ask.”
If the Dodgers advance, Urías will likely become a postseason starter again, especially in longer series with no off days that will require the team to get deeper into its rotation.
But against the Brewers, Urías was best served coming out of the ’pen and giving the Dodgers length after Buehler was removed early to protect a blister on his right index finger.
Walker Buehler’s Game 1 performance made it clear that questions about the Dodgers’ starting rotation will follow the team throughout the playoffs.
“We just don’t know what we were going to get from Walker to be quite honest,” Roberts said. “We had a rested ‘pen. I had a good idea Julio was going to pitch tonight. I just didn’t know when it was going to happen. It just worked more seamless, which was great.”
After stranding Christian Yelich following his single in the fifth, Urías had to pitch around a defensive mistake in the sixth when first baseman Max Muncy misplayed Avisail Garcia’s shallow right-field single, allowing Garcia to reach second.
“[It was] soft contact and it ended up in the outfield,” Urías said through a translator postgame. “But you have to understand that’s part of the game, those are the circumstances, and I was able to get out of it.”
Indeed he did, fanning Arcia with a curveball before handcuffing Eric Sogard with a full-count fastball that could only be grounded back to the mound.
With two outs in the seventh, Yelich got aboard again, lining a fastball the other way for a down-the-line double. But after a mound meeting, Urías settled down and retired the side on Tyrone Taylor‘s infield popup. In the next half-inning, Corey Seager homered to extend the lead to 4-2.
Kenley Jansen completed a hitless ninth inning, but with subpar stuff and little command, a combination that won’t play as well deeper into October.
“[He was] attacking people, got in the zone, got outs, soft contact,” Seager said of Urías, who was credited with his third career postseason win. “That’s a huge effort from our pitching staff. That’s what you need going forward.”
The Dodgers’ plan with Urías, who according to Roberts is “very unlikely” to pitch in a potential Game 3 on Friday, seems much more clear now. If they take care of the Brewers and move on to the best-of-five NLDS, he’ll be used in a leverage situation of a different kind — starting a pivotal game late in a playoff series.
Urías has only had that chance once before, when he allowed four runs in 3 2/3 innings of a Game 4 loss to the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 NLCS, the first of three straight defeats in a series that saw the Dodgers squander a 2-1 lead.
Four years later, though, Urías, 24, maintains the notion that his role makes no difference, that he is fully subscribed to a whatever-is-asked, all-hands-on-deck philosophy.
“They know that I’ll always be willing to give 100%, and that’s going to happen regardless of the outcome,” Urías said. “Luckily tonight we got the win.”
Only, it wasn’t luck. The Dodgers called on Urías to help deliver a key Game 1 win. He didn’t disappoint.
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