The Los Angeles Dodgers went much of the season looking to find consistency out of their bullpen and while it was a question mark heading into the 2019 National League Division Series, the unit had largely proven to be a strength through the first three games.
Some of that was a result of starters-turned-relief pitchers shining in their makeshift roles for October. But on a night when the Dodgers figured to lean heavily on the bullpen to back a presumed short outing from Rich Hill, the group faltered.
Kenta Maeda replaced Hill and bailed the Dodgers out of a bases-loaded jam and worked a scoreless fourth inning as well. His spot in the lineup came up in the fifth, prompting a pinch-hitter, and Julio Urias taking over in the bottom half of the inning.
The appearance was Urias’ second in as many nights. He’d appeared on back-to-back days only twice — both cases in September — during the regular season. Urias struggled, and the Nationals took a lead they never relinquished.
While he lacked much experience with pitching on consecutive days, Urias assured he was prepared to enter Game 4, via Adam McCalvy of MLB.com:
“I was ready to go in whatever situation,” Urias said. “I’ve pitched back-to-back games before. My arm was 100 percent, my mind was 100 percent. It’s just a situation where you can’t miss a lot of pitches, and I watched the video and I missed a lot of pitches, and I paid the price.”
Coming off his two innings of work in Game 3, the young lefty immediately surrendered a leadoff single to Trea Turner on Monday. Then came a sacrifice bunt and Anthony Rendon’s RBI single. Howie Kendrick’s base hit to put runners at the corners knocked Urias out of the game.
“Julio, you’re trying to get one inning out of. In that part of the order, handedness doesn’t matter,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained.
“So to tap Julio in a spot that you like versus left and versus right. I don’t think he had that command tonight, to be quite honest. There were balls that were just missing arm side and got behind.”
Roberts was equally confident in calling on Pedro Baez, who allowed a three-run home run to Ryan Zimmerman before managing to get the final out of the fifth inning. Rendon then tacked on a sacrifice fly against Ross Stripling in the sixth.
Collectively, the bullpen was unable to keep the Nationals at bay, and now the Dodgers face the possibility of their franchise-best 106-win season coming to an abrupt end with a first round playoff exit.