SAN DIEGO — Dave Roberts hedged when asked if Julio Urias would be the Dodgers’ Game 1 starter when their Division Series begins on October 11.
Out of deference to Clayton Kershaw’s body of work? Perhaps. Out of wariness given the Dodgers’ propensity for out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to postseason pitching decisions? Nah – you’re projecting.
But certainly there can be no doubt Urias has earned the role of leading man in the playoffs.
In his penultimate start of the season (he will pitch once more next week), Urias held the San Diego Padres scoreless for six innings in a game that went to extra innings before anyone could score. Freddie Freeman’s RBI single in the 10th drove in the only run of the game in a 1-0 Dodgers victory Wednesday night, their franchise-record 107th of the season.
Coupled with a loss by the Houston Astros, the Dodgers’ magic number to clinch the best overall record and secure home-field advantage through the World Series dropped to one.
Wednesday was the seventh time in 30 starts this season that Urias didn’t give up a run, the 24th in which he gave up two runs or fewer. He hasn’t given up more than two runs in a start since July 10. In 13 starts since then, he has a 1.23 ERA.
Wednesday’s outing wasn’t seamless. Urias gave up six hits, walked two and only had one inning without a baserunner. But he kept the Padres off the board and lowered his ERA for the season to an NL-low 2.17 in the process.
The Cy Young frontrunner for much of the season, Miami Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara has thrown 50 more innings than Urias – but Urias has a better ERA (2.17 to 2.32), WHIP (0.96 to 0.99), batting average against (.199 to .213) and strikeouts per nine innings (8.58 to 8.12).
While Urias’ numbers have been heading in the right direction for a while now, boredom seems to have set in with the Dodgers’ offense.
While splitting their past eight games, the Dodgers have hit .195 as a team and scored a total of 20 runs (2½ per game).
The ineffectiveness has blossomed in the first two games of this series in San Diego during which the Dodgers have gone 2 for 26 with runners in scoring position and stranded 25 runners on base.
Mookie Betts lined the third pitch of the night from Padres starter Joe Musgrove into left-center field for a double and went to third when left fielder Jurickson Profar overthrew the cutoff man. But Betts then watched 31 more pitches that inning without advancing. Musgrove walked two to load the bases but struck out the side to strand them.
A one-out double by Chris Taylor in the second went for naught and the Dodgers loaded the bases again in the fifth before Musgrove struck out Joey Gallo to leave them there. It was the fourth time in the first 15 innings of this series that the Dodgers loaded the bases but did not score a run.
Gallo came up with runners on base in each of his four at-bats Wednesday – twice with the bases loaded – and struck out all four times, stranding eight runners.
The Dodgers finally scored an assisted run in the 10th when a passed ball moved the free runner to third base ahead of Freeman’s run-scoring single – his major-league-leading 192nd hit of the season, setting a new career high.
Tommy Kahnle stranded the free runner at third in the bottom of the 10th for his first save since 2018.
More to come on this story.