Julio Urias delivered his finest major league start to date, at a time when the Dodgers desperately needed it, in a 4-0 victory over the Reds on Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati, snapping a three-game losing streak for Los Angeles.
The 20-year-old left-hander matched a professional high with six innings, allowing only six singles to earn the win in his third straight appearance, the first Dodgers pitcher 20 or younger to do that since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.
Urias struck out six, but more importantly walked none, allowing him to get through six scoreless frames with 97 pitches.
It was the second major league start for Urias with no walks, but the other one — July 21 in Washington D.C. — was only four innings.
Urias allowed a first-inning single to old friend Jose Peraza, but promptly picked him off first base for his major-league-best fifth pickoff of the season, a remarkable feat considering Urias has thrown all of 57 major league innings.
Before his initial call up in May, Urias also had five pickoffs in his final four minor league starts with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
After a two-out single later in the first, Urias retired 10 straight batters.
The Dodgers’ win was their 11th shutout as a team in 2016, matching the Cubs and Phillies for most in baseball.
On offense, the Dodgers started early after not scoring a run against either of the first two Reds starting pitchers in this series. Chase Utley greeted Anthony DeSclafani with a home run to right field to open the first inning, the club’s first lead this weekend in Cincinnati.
Andrew Toles, in his first game back with the big club, singled in the third inning and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Urias. Consecutive singles by Utley and Corey Seager scored two more runs, widening the Dodgers’ advantage.
The single for Seager extended his hitting streak to 12 games, during which he is hitting .458 (22-for-48), including 2-for-4 on Sunday. Nine of his games during the streak have been multi-hit games.
Adrian Gonzalez extended his own hitting streak to 14 games with a single in the sixth, then advanced to third on a double by Yasmani Grandal. A sacrifice fly by Joc Pederson plated the Dodgers’ fourth run of the day.
Gonzalez is hitting .400 (22-for-55) during his streak.
But the story of Sunday was Urias, who has yet to allow a run as a 20-year-old, in 8⅔ innings.
The only other Dodgers pitchers 20 or younger since 1913 to match Urias’ six innings with no runs and no walks allowed were Don Drysdale (July 1, 1957) and Valenzuela (Apr. 18, 1981). Those other two were complete-game shutouts.
His Sunday start was just the third quality start by a Dodgers pitcher in their last 20 games. Urias lowered the rotation’s ERA in August from 6.72 to 6.22, now in 18 games.
At the moment, the Dodgers (68-55) are tied with the Giants atop the National League West, with two more events before their showdown series on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
San Francisco hosts the Mets on Sunday night on ESPN, and the Dodgers have one more game in Cincinnati on Monday. Should both games get completed, the Dodgers will open that series either one game back, tied or one game ahead in the division.
The Dodgers get to spend one more night in the greater Cincinnati/Kentucky area, with one more morning game on Monday to finish off the series, a 9:35 a.m. PT start. Scott Kazmir gets the start for the Dodgers, facing Homer Bailey for the Reds, the latter making his fifth start since returning from Tommy John surgery.
Home run: Chase Utley (11)
WP - Julio Urias (4-2): 6 IP, 6 hits, 6 strikeouts
LP - Anthony DeSclafani (7-2): 7 IP, 8 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts