Julio Urías looked furious with himself in the fourth inning on Sunday after throwing a changeup right over the heart of the plate to light-hitting Colorado third baseman Alan Trejo, who crushed the pitch for a score-tying two-run home run to left-center field.
The Dodgers left-hander fielded Elehuris Montero’s ensuing chopper with his bare hand and, with both feet planted and his body squared to first base, threw awkwardly and angrily to Freddie Freeman for the final out before heading to the dugout in disgust.
And to think, just a few hours earlier, manager Dave Roberts was praising Urías for the serenity he had shown in three previous starts in which Urías began to regain his dominant 2022 form.
“I think the less emotion, or frustration, he’s showing, it speaks to how comfortable he is with his mechanics,” Roberts said before the game. “And if we can stay there, I think the results will be better, you’ll see less of those outbursts on the mound.”
But an angry reaction to one fat pitch on Sunday did not derail Urías, who channeled whatever rage he felt toward home plate, striking out eight of the final nine batters he faced to lead the Dodgers to an 8-3 win over the Rockies before a crowd of 45,904 in Chavez Ravine.
Urías struck out the side in the fifth and sixth innings and struck out two of three in the seventh to complete a seven-inning, three-run, four-hit effort in which he tied a career high with 12 strikeouts and walked none to improve to 10-6 with a 4.35 ERA on the season and 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts.
The Dodgers (71-46) broke open a one-run game with three runs in the sixth inning to complete a four-game sweep of the Rockies, push their winning streak to eight and give them 12 wins in 13 games in August.
“His stuff was so good today, to give up a home run on an 0-and-1 mistake pitch was frustrating,” Roberts said of Urías. “But you could see that as frustrated as he was, he didn’t show as much frustration as he typically does when he can’t find his delivery. I thought that after that, he worked some things out and just took off from there.”
The first 3½ months of this season, his last under contract with the Dodgers before becoming a free agent this winter, were a bit of a slog for Urías, who missed six weeks of May and June because of a hamstring injury and went 7-6 with a 5.02 ERA in his first 14 starts.
The low point for Urías, who went 17-7 with a 2.16 ERA in 31 starts in 2022, came on July 19, when he was rocked for eight earned runs and eight hits in five innings of an 8-5 loss at Baltimore.
But in his last four starts against Toronto, Oakland, Arizona and Colorado, Urías has looked much more like the pitcher who finished third in National League Cy Young Award voting last season.
Relying heavily on a four-seam fastball that averaged 92.2 mph and a 75-mph slurve, Urías induced 22 swinging strikes on Sunday and threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of 25 batters. Of his 88 total pitches, 69 were strikes.
Urías was almost untouchable in his final three innings, striking out Brenton Doyle on a 92-mph fastball, Austin Wynns on an 88-mph changeup and Ezequiel Tovar on an 86-mph cut-fastball in the fifth, and Cole Tucker and Brendan Rodgers with changeups and Elias Diaz with a 94-mph fastball in the sixth.
Urías whiffed Nolan Jones with a 79-mph curve to open the seventh for his seventh straight strikeout before Trejo flied out to center field. Urías closed his outing by striking out Montero looking at a 92-mph fastball.
“Throwing first-pitch strikes is the most important thing for me — I was able to do that today, and that’s why I was able to get these results,” Urías said through an interpreter. “Attacking is the most important thing for me.
“That’s what I’ve done so well over the last two years, and I think my inconsistencies have come from not doing that. Now, I’m just focusing on attack, attack, attack, and it’s been a fundamental reason for my recent success.”
The afternoon began on a sour note for the Dodgers when the team announced in the first inning that reliever Joe Kelly, who assumed a high-leverage role after his July 28 trade from the Chicago White Sox, was placed on the 15-day injured list because of right-forearm inflammation, an injury that is not believed to be serious.
Trejo’s homer tied the score 3-3 in the top of the fourth, but it was all Dodgers from there.
Miguel Rojas lined a two-out solo homer to left, his second of the season, for a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
James Outman struck out, but Rojas drove a sacrifice fly to center for a 5-3 lead, and Mookie Betts sent a two-run double to the gap in right-center for a 7-3 lead. Rojas hit another sacrifice fly in the eighth for an insurance run.
“As a team, we’re definitely hitting our stride,” Rojas said. “I think we’ve been playing really good, unselfish baseball, with guys getting on base in different ways, with hits, walks … everybody is fighting for the opportunity to contribute to a rally.”