Julio Urías’ role for Dodgers this postseason is clear: He’s a starter
It was a familiar sight.
A crisp October night. The late innings of a playoff game. And Julio Urías warming up in the Dodgers’ bullpen.
For the last several years, such has been the left-hander’s role with the Dodgers this time of year, transitioning to the bullpen to pitch leverage innings with the season on the line.
And if not for Chris Taylor’s walk-off home run Wednesday in the wild-card game, Urías might have been called upon again in the 10th inning.
Instead, Urías watched from the bullpen as the ball sailed into the seats, then turned his attention to his scheduled start Saturday night in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants. Right-hander Kevin Gausman is scheduled to start for the Giants.
“Getting a chance to stay away from Julio,” manager Dave Roberts said with a sigh of relief afterward, “it doesn’t kind of cut into Game 2.”
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That became especially pivotal by the end of Friday night, following a 4-0 Giants win in Game 1 that put the Dodgers’ backs against the wall in their best-of-five series.
“I know Julio is gonna be prepared,” Roberts said.
It will be the start of a likely different postseason experience for Urías, one in which he’ll be relied upon as a crucial member of the starting rotation — and not in the hybrid bullpen role he’d grown accustomed to in postseasons past.
“I’ve always been ready for this situation,” Urías said in Spanish on Friday before the series opener. “The limitations haven’t always been easy for me, but I think it’s been the best way. I think tomorrow’s game will be something really special for me because I started the whole season and it’ll be another chance for me to show what I can do. Let’s hope that everything works out.”
There wasn’t much that didn’t work out for Urías during the regular season, his second straight as a full-time member of the rotation.
Urías had a 2.96 ERA and won a major-league best 20 games, setting career highs in strikeouts (195) and innings pitched (185 2/3). Before his final regular-season start, he even got a call from boxing legend and fellow Mexico native Canelo Álvarez, congratulating him on the season and wishing him luck for the playoffs.
“They gave me the chance to start and it is different,” Urías said. “When you have a specific role, you focus more on what you need to work on and what I have to do.”
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It wasn’t until Clayton Kershaw’s season-ending elbow injury that Urías’ spot as the Dodgers’ No. 3 postseason starter was confirmed (though he was available out of the bullpen in the do-or-die wild-card game).
“It’s not more pressure, but it’s simply doing what he does,” Urías said. “Which is compete and give 100% to the team. That’s his way, and it’s how Walker [Buehler] and I have learned a lot from him.”
But it does set up Urías to take the mound at a critical point in the series — and to add to an already impressive track record in the playoffs.
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In 18 career playoff outings, Urías has a 2.79 ERA, including a stellar performance last October in which he gave up only three earned runs in 23 innings, had solid starts in the NLCS and World Series, and got the final outs in the team’s clinching game of both the final two rounds.
“The stuff obviously certainly helps, but it’s just the mind-set,” Roberts said of Urías’ postseason success. “Walker and he have those same ingredients, as far as not running from the big moment, wanting to be the guy. You can’t be afraid to fail and guys got to embrace the big spots. And he does.”
Times staff writer Jorge Castillo contributed to this report.
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