Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias will turn in some final prep work in advance of next month's playoffs, while attempting to help his Cy Young Award cause, when he takes the mound against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday.
Expected to be the club's No. 1 starter when the postseason begins, Urias (17-7, 2.27 ERA) will be out to continue an impressive second half that has eased concerns surrounding the National League West champions.
The Dodgers lost staff ace Walker Buehler earlier this season to Tommy John surgery, while veteran left-hander Clayton Kershaw has been off and on the injured list with back issues. So Urias moved himself to the head of the rotation, thanks to a 9-1 record with a 1.31 ERA since the All-Star break. He leads the NL in ERA.
Urias now has a chance to record consecutive 20-win seasons after reaching the milestone for the first time last season. He remains in line for three more starts before the regular season is complete.
In his most recent outing Saturday at San Francisco, Urias gave up two runs on five hits over six innings as the Dodgers went on to a 7-2 victory.
"Same old Julio," Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "If he's not right there in the Cy Young contention, I don't know what that award would mean then because he has been doing it all year."
Urias' 17th win on the season also gave the Dodgers 100 wins as a team for the fourth time in the past five full seasons.
"Obviously there will be opinions and people will say a lot of things," Urias said when asked about the Cy Young Award chase. "But I try to stay focused on what I have to do each start. Those numbers will speak for themselves and we'll see."
Urias is 7-1 lifetime against the Diamondbacks with a 1.54 ERA in 10 appearances (seven starts) over 46 2/3 innings.
It might not be a memorable season for the Diamondbacks, but they are not making life easy on the Dodgers this week. Thursday's game will be the last of an extended five-game series, with Arizona winning the past two, including a 6-1 victory Wednesday.
The Diamondbacks scored five runs over the first four innings Wednesday, while starter Madison Bumgarner gave up one hit over six innings. Three Diamondbacks pitchers held the Dodgers to one hit over the first eight innings before Mark Melancon allowed two hits in the ninth.
Arizona has now won consecutive games at Los Angeles after winning just once in the previous 20 games at Dodger Stadium.
"To get to where we want to get to, we have to play good against every team, especially teams in the NL West," Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said.
Arizona will send right-hander Zac Gallen (12-3, 2.52) to the mound Thursday. Gallen might be performing even better than Urias in the second half, going 8-1 with a 1.15 ERA over his past 11 starts. His club-record 44 1/3-inning scoreless streak ended Sept. 11.
Gallen is 1-2 lifetime against the Dodgers with a 2.51 ERA over eight starts and 46 2/3 innings.
The Dodgers' Trea Turner will carry an 18-game hitting streak into Thursday's contest.
--Field Level Media