Urías confident and without pressure for Game 5

SAN FRANCISCO – The last two postseason series the Dodgers have won, it has been Mexico’s Julio César Urías who has been on the mound for the last out. His strikeout against Willy Adames to seal the title in Game 6 of the 2020 World Series will forever be remembered in Dodgers history.

If Los Angeles wins another postseason series on Thursday, it could decide again on Urías’ left-handed arm. The 25-year-old from Sinaloa is in charge of opening the decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Giants at Oracle Park.

“The adrenaline obviously changes, and you could say that thinking changes a bit,” said Urías. “But it is the same. It’s just another baseball game where you have to go out and do what we know how to do. Obviously not trying to overdo it, I think we have never done it, or overdoing it. Try to be ourselves and trust what we have. Obviously we have a tremendous team. We have a good backing behind me. So I think we came out very confident ”.

While Urías has full confidence in his team, the Dodgers feel even more confident when the Mexican is on the hill.

In his first full season as a starter, Urías had one of the best years for a pitcher on the Old Circuit. He set a career-high 32 starts and amassed 185.2 innings pitched, well above his previous mark of 79.2 in 2019. The left-hander also became the first 20-game winning pitcher in the majors since Max Scherzer had 20 wins for the Nationals in 2016.

Although a pitcher’s victories no longer weigh as statistically as they did in the past, the reality is that when Urias takes the mound, he often does enough to help Los Angeles win. Including the postseason, the Dodgers are 27-6 when Urias starts a game this year, having won every game in his last 12 outings. If Los Angeles can extend that winning streak to 13 this Thursday, it will advance to meet Atlanta in the NL Championship Series for the second straight season.

“It’s been fun watching it evolve from year to year, ‘Hey, we’re going to use you all the time to throw two or three innings,” to this year a full season of, “You’re going to make 30 starts and see who you are. capable, ”Dodgers starter Walker Buehler said. “It’s been great to watch him grow and evolve into the kind of starter he is today, and I don’t think there is another pitcher we would trust more (to start Game 5) than in July.”

Part of that development of Urías has been the integration of slurve (when the pitcher throws a slider as if it were a curve) and an improved change. Opposition hitters hit .155 against Urías’s curveball, which also includes his new slurve. They also hit .194 against the Urías trade, which became the third most used pitch by the Mexican, replacing the slider.

“Everything in general has worked well,” said Urías. “Part of the consistency comes from that, from pitching every five days and knowing that no matter what, I’m going to have the ball every five days. I think that has been part of the success this year. Obviously health also has a lot to do with it. Staying healthy all season has given me the ability to do the things that I can do. “

From the moment the Dodgers signed Urías at the age of 16, this is the kind of pitcher they always imagined he would become. The natural comparison was with his compatriot Fernando Valenzuela, as another Mexican southpaw who pitched for Los Angeles. But that comparison came to seem unfair to a young man trying to chart his own path.

But at each level of his career as a professional, Urías knew how to deal with and meet expectations, always giving quality results. After dominating in the lower levels of the minors, the native of La Higuerita, Culiacán, was just 18 years old when he was promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2015. He was 19 years old when he debuted in the Big Top on May 27, 2016 .

Urías had the wood to become the Dodgers’ next star, but then adversity appeared. In 2017, he underwent anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder that missed the season, an injury that usually takes 12 to 14 months to heal. In many cases, pitchers are no longer the same. But over the past three years, Urías has come back even better.

“This year, I think the boy kept growing as a pitcher,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. “That growth led him to be better this season and to become one of our best arms.”

Thursday’s game is the most important of the season so far for the Dodgers, and perhaps the most important in Urías’ career. But when the “culichi” speaks, he rarely sounds like a 25-year-old who just completed his first season as a starter exclusively. His behavior is that of a pitcher who has already been through these moments.

The Dodgers hope Thursday ends with Urías celebrating yet another won series.

“The kid goes up the hill with all the confidence in the world, he’s been in the same situation before,” said Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts. “I am sure that he will know how to dominate the moment, and we will try to do the work to win one more game.”