Dodgers’ Julio Urías is struggling, but Dave Roberts doesn’t think fatigue is a factor
Julio Urías reached the summit of his sport last October when the Dodgers left-hander nailed down the final seven outs of a World Series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, helping his team win its first title since 1988.
The 24-year-old pitching prodigy has ascended to new heights again this year, his 88 innings before the All-Star break already more than he’s thrown in any of his five previous seasons, and his legs seem to be wobbling a bit in the rarefied air.
Urías gave up four runs before recording an out Monday night and threw 36 pitches to nine batters in a four-run first inning, digging a hole the Dodgers were unable to climb out of in a 6-2 loss to the San Diego Padres in Petco Park.
Tommy Pham and Jake Cronenworth both doubled in the first, and Manny Machado hit a towering three-run homer to left field for a 4-0 lead. Fernando Tatís Jr. doubled to lead off the fifth, and Cronenworth delivered a knockout blow to Urias, a two-run homer to right that made it 6-1.
Urías’ final line: four innings pitched, six earned runs, four walks, five strikeouts. As loud and hard as some of the contact was, the number that jumps out is the walks — Urías had walked only 13 batters in his first 14 starts.
“I have to give credit to them,” Urías said through an interpreter. “They made good adjustments. They did a really good job up there. I didn’t feel very good with my stuff tonight, and that’s kind of what happened.”
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Urías’ stuff hasn’t been as crisp for a month. He is 2-2 with a 6.31 ERA in his last five starts, striking out 25 and walking 10 in 25 2/3 innings and yielding a .317 average, .945 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, six homers and eight doubles.
Urías went 7-1 with a 3.03 ERA in his first 10 starts, striking out 70 and walking seven in 62 1/3 innings and yielding a .196 average, .549 OPS, seven homers and seven doubles.
Asked if he could point to any specific reasons for Urías’ recent struggles, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “No, I can’t. Certain starts, it’s been the fastball command. I don’t think that was the case today. I don’t really think there’s one particular thing over the last few starts that has led to that inflated ERA.”
What about his workload? The Dodgers restricted Urías’ pitches and innings in 2016 and 2017 because he was a teenager in the big leagues, and they paced his appearances and innings in 2019 and 2020 because he missed the second half of 2017 and most of 2018 because of shoulder surgery.
The Dodgers have removed the bubble wrap this season, giving Urías an opening-day rotation spot and removing previous restrictions, but they don’t think fatigue or a diminishing of stuff has played into his recent slump.
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“You know, I don’t see fatigue,” Roberts said. “I think the stuff has held. Certainly, the results recently haven’t mirrored the stuff. We’re monitoring it each outing, but I think the breaking ball, the changeup at times has been very good, the fastball has been very good, and he’s held velocity. So there’s nothing that’s kind of spoke to a shutdown or a skipping of a start or anything like that.”
Like most pitchers, Urías has experienced a slight dip in spin rates since baseball announced it would be cracking down on grip-enhancing substances.
But his 94.5-mph average velocity on the 40 fastballs he threw Monday night was actually a tick higher than his season average of 94.2 mph, and he looked relatively sharp in the second, third and fourth innings, when he gave up no hits and struck out five.
But his overall command was off, and his pitch-sequencing wasn’t effective. Some Padres hitters worked long at-bats against Urías. Others ambushed him with first-pitch swings.
“I was trying to stick to my plan,” Urías said. “You have a plan going into it, and my pitches just weren’t as fine or as sharp as they usually are, and that’s kind of what contributed to today.”
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