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Julio Urías becomes ‘The Incredible Bulk’ for the Dodgers in Game 3 win

Julio Urias follows through as he strikes out Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth to end the fourth inning in Game 3.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A somewhat dubious pitching plan that featured Dustin May as an “opener” and left-hander Adam Kolarek as a one-inning specialist nearly backfired on the Dodgers on Thursday night when Kolarek gave up two runs, three hits and two walks and was unable to complete the second inning.

With the bases loaded, two out and dynamic San Diego slugger Fernando Tatis Jr., coming up, manager Dave Roberts turned to Julio Urías, and the 24-year-old left-hander responded with a performance that could earn him a new nickname: “The Incredible Bulk.”

Urías, pitching in a “bulk” role, struck out Tatis on four pitches and went on to give up one unearned run and one hit in five innings, striking out six and walking one to help the Dodgers complete a three-game sweep of the National League Division Series with a 12-3 victory over the Padres in Globe Life Field.

The last relief pitcher to toss five-plus innings while giving up one or fewer hits in a postseason series-clinching win was Boston Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez in Game 5 of the 1999 AL Division Series against Cleveland.

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The Dodgers sweep the San Diego Padres with a 12-3 win in Game 3 of the NLDS and advance to the NLCS where they will face the Atlanta Braves.

“That was just a gutty outing by Julio,” third baseman Justin Turner said. “It doesn’t surprise us. He’s a bulldog out there. When he’s on the mound, he competes as good as anyone, and for him to go out there and shut down, essentially, a really good lineup the way he did … he was outstanding.

“He was commanding the fastball up in the zone, getting the breaking balls underneath and mixing in some good changeups. He doesn’t scare off, and he doesn’t shy away from the big moment.”

That was immediately apparent, as Urías threw a first-pitch 96-mph fastball that Tatis swung through for a strike. A second-pitch changeup at 88-mph induced another swing-and-miss. Tatis fouled off a 96-mph fastball and swung through an 83-mph curve for strike three, as Urías preserved a 2-1 deficit.

“You can talk about the play of the game, it was the first hitter he faced,” Roberts said of Urías. “Bases-loaded situation, he punches Tatis … that could have been a different game, so right there, that just flipped the game.”

The rest of the evening was pretty much a breeze for Urías, who retired nine straight batters—three by strikeout—from the third through fifth innings before running into a little sixth-inning turbulence.

Manny Machado opened with a single to left-center field. Eric Hosmer followed with a 108-mph line drive that left fielder A.J. Pollock misjudged, the ball nicking off his glove as he attempted a leaping catch. The play was ruled an error, putting runners on second and third with no outs.

Urías balked, allowing Machado to score to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 8-3 and Hosmer to take third. But Urías struck out Tommy Pham with a 95-mph fastball, got Jurickson Profar to pop to first and Wil Myers to fly to center.

The Dodgers showed early on in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Padres that they were focused on pitcher-hitter matchups.

Urías struck out Jake Cronenworth and got Austin Nola to fly to right to open the seventh before walking Trent Grisham, bringing Roberts to the mound for the ball and a congratulatory slap on the back, Urías heading to the dugout with his third career playoff victory.

“It was an unbelievable job by him,” said catcher Will Smith, who had five hits and three RBIs. “Just coming in and going right at them, not being scared. That’s what he did. He kept us in the ballgame. It could have gotten away from us a little bit, but he really slammed the door on them and let the offense take over and put some runs back up.”

Urías, working exclusively from the stretch, needed only 68 pitches—46 of them strikes—to record 15 outs. He induced nine swings-and-misses, four each on his mid-90s fastball and low-80s curve. He generated a lot of soft contact. Of 11 pitches the Padres put in play, only two had an exit velocity higher than 88 mph.

Urías said he was told that he would be pitching before the game, but he wasn’t sure he’d go as long as he did. Managers usually prefer to use “bulk” pitchers to start an inning, but Urías entered with little margin for error.

“He’s a really good hitter,” Urías, speaking through an interpreter, said of his showdown with Tatis. “We had a good plan against him. It was a matter of executing pitches and remaining focused. Thank God everything worked out.”

Urías went 3-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 11 games, 10 of them starts, this season. A grueling NL Championship Series schedule, which calls for seven games against the Atlanta Braves to be played in seven days beginning Monday, could require a more traditional five-man rotation, so Urías will likely get a start next week.

The Dodgers stampeded over the Padres in the National League Division Series, but Kenley Jansen and Joe Kelly haven’t been reliable late in games.

But Urías was also valuable in a relief role in the 2018 postseason, which ended with a five-game World Series loss to the Boston Red Sox, and he’s willing to pitch whenever the Dodgers need him.

“I’m here to do whatever they ask of me, and if that’s coming in for the first inning, the fourth inning, the fifth or sixth inning, it’s something I’m going to do,” Urías said. “I’m going to attack and focus on every pitch, which is my mentality this entire season. Whether it’s coming in to get one out, as a starter or reliever, you’ll always get 100% from me.”


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