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2020 Dodgers in review: Julio Urías

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The king of series closeouts in 2020

2020 World Series Game 6: Los Angeles Dodgers v. Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images

In the shortest season in Dodgers history, Julio Urías had his longest extended run as a starting pitcher. But it was his acceptance of and dominance in multiple roles in the postseason that will cement his legacy in franchise lore.

Urías made 10 starts for the Dodgers in 2020, the second-most of his career which before this year was stalled by innings caps and injury rehab after major shoulder surgery. This year, the kid gloves were off, so to speak, and Urías thrived.

He actually had 11 “starts,” though the final regular season outing came after an opener, but he still lasted six innings. Urías allowed one or two runs in nine of his 11 starts, and was one of only two staff members to make every turn in the rotation without interruption.

Lowest Dodgers single-season postseason ERA

Pitcher Year IP ERA
Pitcher Year IP ERA
Sandy Koufax 1965 24.0 0.38
Burt Hooton 1981 33.0 0.82
Orel Hershiser 1988 42.7 1.05
Julio Urías 2020 23.0 1.17
Don Sutton 1974 30.0 1.50
minimum 20 innings Source: Baseball-Reference

Urías’ main bugaboo during the season was getting hit right away, allowing 10 runs in his 10 first innings, equaling his total runs allowed in his other 45 innings. Dave Roberts would often preach aggressiveness as a way to solve that first-inning problem, and Urías carried that over well into October, never allowing a run in the first inning of any of his seven remaining outings.

He pitched three scoreless innings of relief in Game 1 of the wild card series, piggybacking a still blister-managed Walker Buehler, then got the win with five strong innings as a bulk reliever after an opener to close out San Diego in Game 3 of the NLDS. Urías started and won Game 3 of the NLCS with five more innings, allowing a run, then four days later pitched the final three innings to win the pennant.

Urías struck out nine in his Game 4 start in the World Series and left the game leading, then came back three days later to retire all seven batters he faced to save the clinching Game 6.

One week after it happened I re-watched the final four innings of Game 6, a cathartic viewing experience this time free of any editorial duties. When Urías entered with two outs in the seventh inning, with the tying run on first base, John Smoltz on the Fox broadcast summed things up quite nicely.

“His arm is a gift, but his pulse is a gift, too,” Smoltz said. “He doesn’t get carried away, for a young player, in any situation that I’ve seen so far. That is two combinations of why you can trust him in a lot of situations Dave Roberts has put him in.”

Urías in the postseason pitched as a starter, as a bulk reliever, and as a closer. He didn’t allow a baserunner in either his NLCS-clinching win nor his World Series-clinching save. Urías is one of only seven pitchers to pitch longer than one inning and record the final out in the final game of both the League Championship Series and World Series.

Orel Hershiser, who did so with two close-out complete games in 1988, is the only starting pitcher on this list.

Multi-inning championship close-outs

Pitcher Team Year LCS World Series
Pitcher Team Year LCS World Series
Julio Urías Dodgers 2020 3 IP, W 2⅓ IP, Sv
Mariano Rivera Yankees 2009 2 IP, 1 R, Sv 1⅔ IP
Jonathan Papelbon Red Sox 2007 2 IP, Sv 1⅔ IP, Sv
Orel Hershiser Dodgers 1988 9 IP, SHO 9 IP, 2 R, W
Jesse Orosco Mets 1986 3 IP, 3 R, W 2 IP, Sv
Bruce Sutter Cardinals 1982 2⅓ IP, Sv 2 IP, Sv
Rollie Fingers A's 1974 2 IP, 1 R, Sv 2 IP, Sv
League Championship Series began in 1969

Urías had four wins and a save to go with his 1.17 ERA, 29 strikeouts and only four walks in his 23 postseason innings, one of the great performances in franchise history, and was absolutely instrumental in delivering the Dodgers’ first championship in 32 years.

2020 particulars

Age: 23

Stats: 3-0, 3.27 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 45 K, 55 IP

Salary: $1 million

Game of the year

It’s an upset that I’m not picking Urías’ final seven outs to win the World Series, but only because his performance in Game 7 of the NLCS was so good. At the end of seven games in seven days, with a Dodgers bullpen gassed from using the last 2½ games to come back from a 3-1 deficit, Urías came into the game in the seventh inning, on only three days rest after a start.

He retired all nine batters he faced in this one, which also gets extra credit since the game was still tied when Urías entered.

Pretty incredible that Urías had two career-defining pitching performances in the same postseason.

Roster status

Urías has three years, 117 days of service time, and is arbitration-eligible for the second time, after earning $1 million (before it was pro-rated for the shorter season) as a Super Two last year. Urías will be eligible for free agency after the 2023 season.