Julio Urías has a tough night as Dodgers drop series opener to Padres

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Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias (7) looks down as San Diego Padres' Manny Machado (13) rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Monday, June 21, 2021, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías looks down as the Padres' Manny Machado rounds the bases after hitting a three-run homer during the first inning Monday night in San Diego. (Denis Poroy / Associated Press)

Two months ago, when the Dodgers and San Diego Padres squared off for the first time in 2021, their three-game series was billed as a clash between the top teams in the National League West and major league baseball’s newest rivals. It was as hyped as an April series could get. And it delivered thrills to match the expectations inside a Petco Park restricted to one-third capacity.

On Monday night, the teams reconvened at Petco Park to begin a three-game series with a sellout crowd and a slightly different tagline: second- and third-place clubs trying to not lose ground on the surging first-place San Francisco Giants.

The Padres took the first round, a 6-2 wire-to-wire win behind Yu Darvish to snap the Dodgers’ three-game winning streak. The Dodgers (44-28) have lost five of six games against San Diego since winning the clubs’ first two meetings this season. The Padres (43-32) moved within two 2½ games of the Dodgers and 4½ games of the Giants in the standings.

Monday’s result came down to the two starting pitchers. Darvish held the Dodgers — still without Corey Seager, Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger — to one run and two hits over six innings. He walked one and struck out 11 and became the first pitcher in major league history to reach 1,500 career strikeouts in fewer than 200 games. He has limited his former team to three runs over 20 innings in three outings this season.

“I just don’t see him not dominating any major league lineup tonight with the stuff that he had,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

On the other side, Julio Urías yielded four runs in the first inning and was pulled before recording an out in the fifth. He gave up six runs and six hits in four-plus innings and issued a season-high five walks.

Monday was launch day for Major League Baseball’s efforts to more strictly police pitchers’ use of foreign substances. MLB officially warned teams that the enhanced enforcement was coming last week. Pitchers, starting Monday, are barred from using anything but rosin. Violators get ejected and suspended 10 games with pay. Teams cannot replace suspended pitchers on the roster.

MLB said umpires will check starting pitchers more than once per game. Relievers get inspected at the end of the inning or when they’re removed from the game, whichever happens first. The question was how those checks would look. The answer: quick and in plain sight.

Darvish was examined first after working around a walk in the first inning. Home plate umpire Jordan Baker and first base umpire Chris Segal checked his hat and glove. The crowd booed. The umpires deemed him clean. Urías was also cleared after the first inning, and each pitcher was cleared once more. Belts were not examined.

“It’s part of what we’re going to have to get used to,” Urías said.

That’s about all the two pitchers had in common.

Urías’ night was doomed from the outset. The left-hander gave up four runs before recording an out. The barrage happened fast. Tommy Pham greeted him with a leadoff single. Fernando Tatis Jr. walked. Jake Cronenworth slashed an RBI double. Manny Machado then delivered the upper cut, turning on a 96-mph fastball for a three-run home run to left field.

The Padres' Manny Machado steals second base ahead of the tag of Dodgers second baseman Chris Taylor.
The Padres' Manny Machado steals second base ahead of the tag of Dodgers second baseman Chris Taylor during the fifth inning Monday in San Diego. (Denis Poroy / Associated Press)

Urías got the next two batters out before walking Ha-Seong Kim and surrendering a single to Victor Caratini. The sequence prompted Roberts to get Phil Bickford warming in the bullpen. But Urías stranded the two runners and didn’t yield a run over the next three innings.

That was the good news for the Dodgers. The bad news was Urías’ pitch count was at 85. It swiftly got worse.

Tatis led off the fifth inning with a double before Cronenworth slashed a curveball for a two-run home run. Urías’ night ended there. He has been charged with 18 earned runs in 25-2/3 innings over his last five starts. His earned-run average has since risen from 3.03 to 3.99.

The struggles have coincided with Urías drifting into uncharted territory: The 24-year-old left-hander’s 88 innings pitched this season already are a career high. Roberts, however, said he hasn’t seen any fatigue from Urías.

“I got to give credit to them,” Urías said. “They made good adjustments. They did a really good job up there. I didn’t feel very good with my stuff tonight.”

Darvish was one of the most outspoken major leaguers against MLB’s decision to enforce the rules midseason. He insisted the balls were too slick without applying any substances. He considered the measure unfair. Meanwhile, the average spin rate on all his pitches plummeted. His spin rates remained in the same vicinity Monday, and it didn’t hinder him.

Darvish’s only blemish was a solo home run Mookie Betts clobbered to center field in the third inning. He generated 18 whiffs with his 99 pitches and lowered his ERA to 2.50.

The Dodgers’ best chance to mount a comeback arose after Darvish’s exit, with Betts at the plate with the bases loaded against an erratic Austin Adams in the seventh inning. Betts got ahead 2-0 but flied out to center field on a slider as the Dodgers mustered just three hits all night to go with 16 strikeouts.

“They’ve played us really well,” Roberts said. “They’ve got the best of us this year.”

Short hops

Roberts said Monday that Muncy will come off the injured list to start at second base Tuesday and Bellinger will follow Wednesday. Both sluggers are eligible for activation Tuesday. Muncy is out with an oblique strain. Bellinger has missed time with a left hamstring strain. …The sluggers took at-bats against left-hander Scott Alexander in a simulated game Monday. Alexander is on the injured list with a shoulder injury. He isn’t eligible to return until July 2. …The Dodgers called up outfielder Zach Reks and optioned right-hander Edwin Uceta to triple-A Oklahoma City before Monday’s game. Reks started in left field and batted eighth in his major league debut. He finished 0 for 2 before he was removed as part of a double switch.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.