The Dodgers put everything together to finish off a sweep of the Giants, and Julio Urías was at the center of all of Sunday’s 11-5 romp in San Francisco, the seventh straight win for Los Angeles.
Urías has always been something of a unicorn, a bonafide prospect at age 16 and the youngest player at multiple levels in his climb up the ladder. The challenge has always been balancing Urías’ uncommon ability to hold his own against players several years his elder and to not try to push too hard during his formative years.
He never threw more than 128 innings in any season, and though last year was his longest extended run in the starting rotation, it came in a schedule shortened to 60 games by a pandemic. This year, the kid gloves are fully off for Urías, who remains unique at 24, both the sixth-youngest player on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster, and the fifth-longest-tenured player in the organization.
On the season, Dodgers starters lead MLB in innings pitched, FIP (3.04), strikeout rate (30.9 percent), walk rate (5 percent), and fWAR (6.7), and are second in ERA (2.74). Urías is a pillar of said rotation, averaging 6.23 innings per game after entering 2021 having never pitched longer than 6⅓ innings as a professional.
“He’s a veteran big league pitcher now. There’s no more project. There’s no more prospect,” manager Dave Roberts said before Sunday’s game. “Certainly having the value of losing a starter in Dustin May, but having Julio be one of the four guys that posts and performs has just been huge for all of us.”
Urías on Sunday retired his first 16 batters faced before having the audacity to allow three hits and two runs in the sixth inning, by the time the game was already decided.
He struck out 10, the third time this season Urías reached double digits in strikeouts. On the season, Urías has 70 strikeouts against only seven walks to go with his 3.03 ERA and 2.85 FIP in 10 starts.
At the plate, Urías lined a double over the head of Mike Yastrzemski and to the right field wall that scored a pair in the second inning. That was one of two hits on the day for Urías and three runs batted in, the most by a Dodgers pitcher since Dan Haren in 2014.
The game was so in hand that the Dodgers even survived anxiety-inducing relief from the bottom end of the bullpen depth chart — this time by Edwin Uceta and Dennis Santana — so much so that a game that was once 11-0 ended up seeing Blake Treinen having to warm up in the ninth inning.
Making them pay
With Mookie Betts a late scratch with left shoulder soreness, DJ Peters got a third straight start on Sunday. In the third inning, Peters came to the plate coming off his first two-hit game, but otherwise looking largely overmatched at the plate in the majors, with a .200 average and .300 slugging percentage to go with his 44-percent strikeout rate at the time.
Gabe Kapler opted to intentionally walk Peters, who was batting eighth, bringing up Urias with the bases loaded. This was nearly identical to the other three intentional walks granted to Peters this week, all with two outs and the pitcher up next. It worked the previous three times, with two strikeouts and even when Trevor Bauer hit a ball into right field on Friday, he was thrown out at first base.
But on Sunday, putting Peters on base rather than going after a very achievable out royally backfired on San Francisco. Urías lined a smash off Darin Ruf’s glove at first base for another run, then Gavin Lux followed with his second grand slam of the week. A 5-0 Dodgers advantage at the time of the intentional walk was suddenly doubled.
Lux’s slam ended the day for Anthony Desclafani, who was legitimately very good before Sunday. The right-hander allowed only 12 runs in his first nine starts, never more than three in any game. But the Dodgers got him for 10, while Desclafani recorded only eight outs.
Home runs: Gavin Lux (3), Max Muncy (10); Austin Slater (5)
WP — Julio Urías (7-1): 6 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 10 strikeouts
LP — Anthony Desclafani (4-2): 2⅔ IP, 9 hits, 10 runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts
The Dodgers head to Houston for two games, but are off on Monday. The series opener against the Astros on Tuesday night (5:10 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA, FS1) is a treat, with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke on the mound.