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Runs are at a premium as Dodgers edge Giants in opener

Julio Urías pounds the strike zone in LA’s 3-1 win

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MLB: MAY 03 Giants at Dodgers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

By law, every Dodgers-Giants game is required to be close late, and Tuesday night was no exception. Runs are at a premium this season across the sport, and the combination of two excellent pitching staffs and a deadened baseball limited the output to just four total runs between the two National League West titans. Los Angeles scored three of them to take the series opener at Dodger Stadium.

Counting the postseason in 2021, a third of the 24 games between the Dodgers and Giants were decided by one run. Five more battles saw a two-run final margin. Each team won twelve games.

Tuesday night was similarly close, with the Dodgers eking out a ninth win in 11 home games this season. They’ve allowed two or fewer runs in half of their 22 games overall.

Diminished fastball velocity has been the headliner in the early part of the season for Julio Urías, and it was down again on Tuesday at 92.1 mph on average, two ticks below last season. But just as large a concern for Urías was his command, walking eight batters in 18 April innings, an 11-percent walk rate that was more than double his 5.1-percent walk rate in 2021 that led the National League and ranked second in the majors.

Urías walked nobody on Tuesday, keeping San Francisco scoreless in six innings.

He pounded the zone in the series opener, throwing 80 percent of his 65 pitches for strikes, including starting 19 of his 21 batters with a strike. Urías led MLB in strike percentage last year too, but Tuesday was well above his 69.8-percent rate from last year.

Urías might have given up a run in the first, with Mauricio Dubón having designs on an extra-base hit, but his 102-mph drive to right field was hauled in by a leaping grab from Mookie Betts.

Against the Giants in his career, Urías has a 2.41 ERA in 21 games, including 15 starts, with 82 strikeouts in 82 innings. Overall this season, Urías lowered his ERA to 1.88 through five starts.

Carlos Ródon was very much a handful in his own right, allowing only three hits in his six innings.

Ródon only walked two in his outing, but both free passes came in the second inning. With two outs, he got ahead of Chris Taylor 0-2, then Ródon had a slider that slipped out of his hand, sailing over catcher Joey Bart’s head to the backstop putting both runners in scoring position.

The next pitch was very much in the strike zone, and Taylor served the ball the other way for a two-run single. Taylor also doubled later against Ródon, but was stranded.

In the sixth, Trea Turner doubled with one out against his old college roommate. This came after Ródon, the third pick in the 2014 MLB Draft out of NC State, got Turner, the 13th pick that year, on a pair of one-pitch outs. It was the first time Turner and Ródon faced each other in the majors.

San Francisco scratched across their run in the seventh with a single to third base and a walk off Brusdar Graterol. The only ball hit out of the infield that inning was Luis Gonzalez’s flyout to left field, a sacrifice fly against Alex Vesia, who otherwise escaped the jam.

Daniel Hudson worked around a walk in the eighth to preserve a one-run advantage, and the Dodgers added an insurance run in the eighth. Craig Kimbrel, pitching in his third straight game spread over the last four days, threw a season-high 26 pitches and allowed the tying runs to reach base, but earned the save.

Kimbrel’s 377th career save moves him into a tie with Joe Nathan for eighth place on the all-time list.

Tuesday particulars

Home runs: In this economy?

WP — Julio Urías (2-1): 6 IP, 4 hits, 4 strikeouts

LP — Carlos Ródon (3-1): 6 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Sv — Craig Kimbrel (5): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Up next

San Francisco will send another left-hander in the series finale, with old friend Alex Wood on the mound on Wednesday night (7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA). The Dodgers haven’t yet announced their starting pitcher for the series finale.