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Dodgers ‘old soul’ Julio Urías gets the call in Game 5

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“He just wants to be the guy,” manager Dave Roberts said.

Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants - Game Two Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After getting a boost from their 27-year-old playoff-tested ace on short rest in Game 4 of the NLDS, the Dodgers will turn to their 25-year-old left-hander who’s been around so long it’s still sometimes surprising to realize just how young he is.

Julio Urías starts in Game 5 against the Giants on Thursday night, hoping to replicate his performance in Game 2, when he held San Francisco to one run in five innings, buoyed by the Dodgers’ best offensive performance of this postseason to date.

“Julio has this weird but old soul about him,” said Mookie Betts. “He just gets on the mound like he’s been there, he’s done it, and he’s got so much confidence in himself that it just kind of oozes out on everyone else.”

Urías has done it before. His first postseason appearance came two months after his 20th birthday, pitching two innings in relief and earning the win over the Nationals in the 2016 NLDS. In Game 5, on the road.

He has 43⅔ postseason innings under his belt with a 2.68 ERA, reliable in just about any role over the years. Last October he ran the gamut, from starting to bulk innings to close-out relief. He got the final nine outs to close out the NLCS, and recorded the final seven outs to finish off the World Series, the last man standing to end the Dodgers’ 32-year championship drought.

“He just wants to be the guy,” manager Dave Roberts said.

The Dodgers are 27-6 (.818) when Urías starts this season, winning the last 12 times. LA’s last loss in a game started by Urías was July 27 in San Francisco, in a game started by Logan Webb. The Giants are 14-0 when Webb starts at home this season, including Game 1 of the NLDS, setting up a classic matchup in Game 5.

Though he turned 25 in August, this is technically the age-24 season for Urías. He’s both the sixth-youngest player on the Dodgers 40-man roster, and the fifth-longest tenured player in the organization.

His Game 2 victory over the Giants was his seventh postseason win, the second-most in Dodgers history, behind only Clayton Kershaw. Since 2016 — Urías’ first season — he has as many postseason wins as Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton.

Last year was the first time Urías got a real extended shot at being a starter, but it was a pandemic-truncated 60-game season. This season, all the restrictions were lifted, and Urías was a steady force as in the rotation all year long. After 38 career regular season starts before this year, Urías started 32 times in 2021.

“I felt very confident that I was going to be able to do this,” Urías said through an interpreter on Wednesday. “That’s always been a goal to go out every fifth day, and go out there and pitch the way that I have.”

His 190⅔ innings, counting NLDS Game 2, are by far the most of any year of his career, 63 more than his second-highest total, in the majors, minors, and postseason combined in 2016.

Urías had a 2.96 ERA, a career-best 3.13 FIP, and his 195 strikeouts are more than any two previous seasons. He’s the first Dodgers’ 20-game winner since Kershaw in 2014.

“He stays calm. He knows what he needs to do. He attacks the zone. He knows how to get guys out, and he’s going to go right at them,” said catcher Will Smith, who’s been behind the plate for 28 of 33 Urías starts this season. “That’s what he’s done all year, so there’s no reason to change that now.”

NLDS Game 5 info

Teams: Dodgers (109-58) vs. Giants (109-57)

NLDS: Series tied, 2-2

Location: Oracle Park, San Francisco

Time: 6:07 p.m.

TV: TBS