MILWAUKEE — Rookie pitcher Julio Urias did not deliver the kind of start on Tuesday that demanded another outing. It’s just that the Los Angeles Dodgers might not have any other choice but to give him one.
And the questions about pressing on further with a young pitcher are not necessarily performance based.
The Dodgers planned on having Urias back in the minor leagues by now, in an effort to curtail his innings count and bring him back for a potential stretch drive. Now, with the news that Clayton Kershaw is dealing with tightness in his lower back and is headed back to Los Angeles for further examination, Urias’ lease on major league life could be extended.
“We’re still weighing the options, but as it stands right now, with the status of our starting pitching, it looks likely,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said when asked if his 19-year-old left-hander will get another outing.
Consider his start on Tuesday night in a 6-5 win over Milwaukee one of the more successful six-walk outings in a while. Urias’ outing not only was enough to be considered for another start, he also earned his first major league victory in his seventh career outing.
“It’s beautiful, incredible; it’s one of the best days of my life,” Urias said through an interpreter. “What more can I say?”
If the sporadic command showed his inexperience, there was still enough on the table to show why Urias is expected to go far in a career that has started at such a young age. Urias not only struck out six over his six innings, but when the Brewers did get bat on ball, he induced weak contact and gave up just two hits.
“You know what, he made pitches when he needed to,” Roberts said. “That’s one of the things with Julio is that as he continues to make major league starts and continues to try to be efficient; the walks tonight are something he needs to get better at, but when he needed to make pitches and throw strikes, he did that. The fastball had life, the breaking ball; he threw some really good changeups tonight.”
As relieved as he was afterward to be in possession of not one game ball for the victory but also a second one for his first career hit, Urias also knows he was fortunate.
“I struggled with some pitches, and obviously the walks were too many for any starter, but the good thing was that we could get the win and we could get the results we needed,” Urias said.
There were more contributors than Urias, of course. Howie Kendrick, Adrian Gonzalez and Trayce Thompson each had multiple hits. Kendrick continued a revival from a slow start, Gonzalez showed that two days out of the lineup at Pittsburgh helped and Thompson is free from an 0 for 19 spell.
There was Corey Seager’s leadoff triple in the fourth inning to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, while Adam Liberatore fired another scoreless inning to take his ERA to 0.72 and Kenley Jansen returned from a four-out save on Monday to get the final three outs.
Still, the key moment might have come from Joc Pederson, who helped snuff out the Brewers’ eighth-inning rally with a catch on the dead run, moments before slamming into the center-field wall. Jonathan Lucroy managed to tag up and score from second on the play, but Pederson prevented the tying run from reaching base.
“Pederson made a heck of a play,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He went at full speed, made a great play. … That was definitely the play of the game, without a doubt.”
Yet there was one more, when catcher Yasmani Grandal hustled to retrieve a Joe Blanton pitch to the backstop in the eighth inning after the Brewers had already pushed across three runs. With Hernan Perez trying to bring home the tying run from second, Grandal gathered himself before throwing back to Blanton covering at home. Blanton applied the tag.
Had the run scored, the game not only would have been tied, Urias would no longer have been in line for the victory. Like any youngster in the midst of a bad dream, Urias panicked.
“I was inside here watching the game on television, and when there was the play at home my heart started beating really fast,” Urias said. “But once I saw the out, I was happy.”
Now comes the wait to see if the Dodgers really intend to use him for one more start.
“Like I said, I’m going to take whatever decision is made in the best way possible,” he said. “If it’s like that then I’m going to be prepared and be ready in these next five days.”