Julio Urias proves he can be a viable option in Dodgers’ 6-4 loss to A’s

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LOS ANGELES — This time, the first inning troubles weren’t Julio Urias’ fault.

For the first time this season, someone else started on his day to pitch.

Urias was originally scheduled to start in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 6-4 loss to the Oakland A’s on Wednesday. But hours before the game, the team announced the left-hander would be shifted to the bullpen instead, throwing bulk relief innings in the team’s continued effort to prepare for all postseason potentialities.

Joe Kelly instead began the game, allowing three quick runs to put the Dodgers in a hole that would take all night for them to dig out of.

Unburdened by his season-long first-inning struggles, Urias gave his offense the chance to do it.

Upon entering the game in the third, the 24-year-old retired 12 of his first 13 batters. He struck out five over his first four innings. Only in the seventh did he get into trouble, allowing the A’s to score on two hits and a walk. Yet, he responded in the eighth, completing his six-inning, one-run outing with a four-pitch frame.

In what could be his final appearance of the regular season, Urias produced the start-to-finish dominance for which manager Dave Roberts has yearned. More importantly, he might have added another option to his team’s not-yet-finalized playoff pitching plans, giving his skipper perhaps one more card to play for when the stakes really start to rise.

The Dodgers know Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler will pitch Games 1 and 2 in next week’s opening best-of-three wild card round, though they haven’t decided on the order. If the series reaches a third game, however, the club’s choices are far more varied.

They could start Urias, who lowered his ERA to 3.27, or opt for Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin. Depending on how the series unfolds, a bullpen game including some mixture of those three might not be out of the question either.

Only one thing is clear: At least two of Urias, May and Gonsolin will come out of the bullpen if they are to pitch in that opening round. And entering Wednesday, Urias was the only member of that trio yet to make a relief appearance this year.

“We don’t know how it’s going to play out, as far as the postseason,” Roberts said before the game, describing Wednesday’s late pitching change as a way “to give Julio an opportunity to potentially pitch out of the ’pen. To feel it more recently is a good way to prepare.

“For him to go out of the ’pen and see the rhythm of that is only going to be beneficial.”

Roberts said the team could do the same thing again with May and Gonsolin before the end of the regular season Sunday as a way to “continue keeping our options open while preparing these guys.”

But for Urias, this routine is nothing new. Last season, the left-hander started in only eight of his 37 outings and came out of the bullpen in each of his final eight appearances of the regular season — a precursor to his three relief appearances in the NLDS.

After returning from a yearlong shoulder injury late in the 2018 season, Urias made three regular-season relief appearances in preparation for a World Series run that saw him pitch out of the bullpen seven times.

And after spending the majority of his rookie 2016 season in the Dodgers’ rotation, Urias made one relief appearance in late September and another in the NLDS before starting Game 4 of the NLCS.

Though all 10 of Urias’ outings this year entering Wednesday had been starts, Roberts on Tuesday acknowledged the 24-year-old’s postseason role “remains to be seen.” After all, the Dodgers want to maximize the impact of one of their few pitchers with both multiple years of playoff experience and the versatility to serve in the bullpen and the rotation.

“As a starter, he continues to get better, for me, in the last couple turns,” Roberts said. “As a reliever, we’ve seen where in short bursts, an inning or two, to then come back and pitch a day later, the value of that. We have some good options.”



— Justin Turner played defense for the first time since Aug. 28, logging five innings at third base before a planned midgame removal. Turner had served as the designated hitter five times since returning from an injured list stint caused by a left hamstring strain but was a late scratch Tuesday after experiencing tightness in that hamstring before the game.

— Starting a game for the first time since 2016, Joe Kelly gave up three runs (two earned) in his one inning. Kelly, who is supposed to pitch twice more in this weekend’s season-finale series against the L.A. Angels, continued relying heavily on his knuckle curve, throwing it 16 times in his 22 pitches.

— Max Muncy hit another home run off his former team, sending a towering two-run shot over the right-field wall in the third. After going 13 games without a homer entering the series, the former fifth-round A’s draft pick has long balls in back-to-back games. Cody Bellinger and Edwin Ríos also homered for the Dodgers.


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