Julio Urias dominates in Dodgers win after another bout of first-inning struggles

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It’s Julio Urias’ dominance from the second inning onward that makes his struggles in the first so confounding.

That season-long trend was exemplified Thursday night, as the Los Angeles Dodgers starter allowed two runs in the opening frame against the Colorado Rockies before shutting down their lineup down over the next five.

The latter stretch was good enough to help the Dodgers win 9-3 at Coors Field, bringing their magic number for an NL West title down to five. The former, however, only added to the last big question mark hovering over the left-hander with the start of the playoffs less than two weeks away.

Urias ran into trouble from the start, missing the zone with three straight fastballs to begin the game. He eventually worked that opening at-bat to a full count but surrendered a payoff pitch single to Raimel Tapia. Trevor Story doubled in another full count after that, allowing Charlie Blackmon to open the scoring with a sac fly and Kevin Pillar to make it 2-0 on an RBI single. By the time the inning ending, Urias had thrown 26 pitches.

After that, however, the 24-year-old was nearly flawless. He induced three harmless flyouts with just eight pitches in the second and three more on only nine pitches in the third. In the fourth, he retired the heart of the Rockies lineup in order, fanning Matt Kemp to end the inning. In the fifth, he recorded his 13th consecutive out before his pitch count reached 70.

“Early on, he was a little frustrated,” manager Dave Roberts said during an in-game television interview. “He thought he got squeezed on a couple calls. It’s been good (since). He’s got better command and he’s in a better place … He’s spinning the ball. The fastball has life.”

Not until a leadoff error by third baseman Edwin Rios in the sixth inning was Urias’ streak snapped. He retired the next two batters nonetheless before Roberts turned to the bullpen, which received a scoreless inning from Dylan Floro and saw Joe Kelly make his first appearance since Aug. 8.

By the time Urias exited — posting a stat line of 52/3 innings, two runs, three hits and two strikeouts — the Dodgers had tied the game. Then, they blew it open with a six-run seventh inning that included an RBI single from Mookie Betts, an RBI double from Corey Seager, a two-run double from Will Smith and a run-scoring wild pitch and passed ball.

Urias didn’t get credit for the win despite recording his second-straight start of two runs or fewer and eighth in 10 total outings this season. If not for his 9.00 ERA in first innings (that number drops to 2.08 in the second inning or later and 3.49 overall), he might have already locked down the No. 3 spot in the Dodgers’ rotation.

Instead, he remains in competition with Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin for postseason roles as the regular season enters its final nine games.


Short hops

Outfielder Joc Pederson is expected to rejoin the team following an off-day on Monday. Pederson was placed on the family medical emergency list Wednesday … Justin Turner was the designated hitter for a third straight game as the Dodgers continue to be cautious with his hamstring recovery. “To reach back for more in any case right now is just not worth it,” Roberts said. “We’re just being smart with it.”


(Harris reported from Los Angeles.)


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