Unlike the Dodgers’ pregame bus ride, Julio Urías’ start Friday night was smooth, seamless and stress-free.
Hours before the game, a charter bus carrying manager Dave Roberts and six players blew a tire on its way to Citizens Bank Park.
“It was my first tire bust to a ballpark,” Roberts said with a laugh after arriving at the stadium.
In the Dodgers’ 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, his starting pitcher provided the exact opposite experience.
After giving up eight runs (five earned) and four homers in six innings against the Phillies last week — one of several Dodgers pitchers bludgeoned in a home series loss — Urías mowed through the hosts Friday during a scoreless five-inning gem.
Granted, reigning National League most valuable player Bryce Harper wasn’t playing for the Phillies, missing his fifth straight game after a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right elbow. Urías’ outing was impressive all the same. He retired the first eight Phillies and only one runner reached scoring position, Urías stranding a Kyle Schwarber double in the fifth. And the left-hander racked up five strikeouts without issuing a walk.
“He didn’t pitch well against those guys last time,” Roberts said. “So he’s a guy that wants to go out there and kind of have a little redemption.”
Added Urías, through an interpreter: “I made my adjustments, and I think tonight worked out really well.”
The only missing piece to Urías’ outing was more length, after the Dodgers turned to the bullpen at the start of the sixth with his pitch count at 80. It was reminiscent of Urías’ May 3 start against San Francisco, when he was lifted after six scoreless innings and just 65 pitches.
But it was inconsistent with the team’s decision a week later, when Urías was allowed to pitch into the seventh inning of a May 9 game against Pittsburgh despite looking far less dominant — a move that backfired when Urías gave up a home run to the last batter he faced.
Roberts explained Friday’s early hook, saying he was wary of pushing Urías in his second straight start against the same team. He also noted Urías is in the midst of a busy stretch of schedule in which he won’t get any extra rest.
“I just felt there was no upside in pushing him an extra inning tonight,” Roberts said.
Instead, the Dodgers asked for 12 outs from their banged-up bullpen.
Before Friday’s game, the team announced that reliever Tommy Kahnle will be shut down for at least a week or two because of a bone bruise in his surgically repaired right elbow. Kahnle will be the second key leverage reliever out for an extended period of time, with setup man Blake Treinen also rehabbing a shoulder injury that will keep him out until after the All-Star break.
It left Roberts piecing together a different bullpen plan to protect the lead built by his lineup — led by a three-hit, two-RBI performance from Freddie Freeman.
Right-hander Yency Almonte handled the sixth inning and got one out in the seventh. Left-hander Alex Vesia followed and stranded an inherited runner. Right-hander Evan Phillips was passed the baton one batter into the eighth, escaping a two-on, two-out jam to extinguish the Phillies’ best chance at a comeback.
After the teams traded a run in the ninth, closer Craig Kimbrel got his eighth save.
While Kimbrel is a future Hall of Famer, Almonte and Phillips weren’t expected to be leverage contributors. Vesia became a revelation only midway through last year.
But given the state of the bullpen and the club’s continued hesitancy to push starters, the team will have to lean on lesser-known arms to get through the coming weeks.
“All the guys came in and threw the baseball well,” Roberts said.
Clayton Kershaw, out since May 13 because of inflammation in his lower back, is likely a couple of weeks away from throwing a bullpen session, Roberts said. Kershaw is home in Texas and will rejoin the team when it travels to Arizona next week. … The Dodgers brought back fan-favorite reliever Pedro Báez on a minor-league deal. Báez, who was released last month by Houston and last pitched with the Dodgers in 2020, will go to Arizona to work with club personnel.