Facing a similar situation on Monday night, the Dodgers manager made a different decision.
With his team trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates by one in the bottom of the seventh, Roberts sent Urías out to the mound to face No. 9 hitter Michael Perez.
One misplaced fastball later, it immediately backfired, with Perez hitting a solo home run that helped the Pirates pull away in a 5-1 defeat of the Dodgers at PNC Park.
There were plenty of causes for the Dodgers’ loss Monday, which ended the team’s six-game winning streak.
Their bullpen gave up three runs in two innings. Their lineup suffered one of its quietest nights all year, matching its season-low run total on just four hits. And they were robbed of a couple potential extra-base hits by diving catches from Pirates outfielders.
“I thought we still stayed in the strike zone, I thought we hit some balls well,” Roberts said after his team consistently made hard contact yet went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine men on base. “We just had nothing to show for it.”
The decision to send Urías back to the mound in the seventh, however, became the latest development in the team’s ever-evolving usage of the 25-year-old left-hander, standing in stark contrast to the way his outing last week ended.
That night, Urías had thrown six scoreless innings on just 65 pitches against the San Francisco Giants yet was lifted at the start of the seventh.
Roberts later cited the quality of the Giants’ contact and the lingering effects of a lockout-shortened spring as factors in the decision.
“I’d rather err more on the cautious side than the aggressive side,” Roberts said that night.
Monday night in Pittsburgh began with different circumstances, after Roberts said pregame he planned to give Urías more leash.
“I’ve been very methodical in how we’ve managed him,” Roberts said. “I expect him tonight to go deeper in the game.”
When the situation arose at the start of the seventh, Roberts followed through.
Urías had given up 10 hits (just the second time in his career an opponent had reached double-digit hits against him) and had a higher pitch count of 79.
But he had also been able to limit damage, highlighted by a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth he escaped with three straight outs, including a couple strikeouts that featured his first two 95-mph fastballs of the season.
“I thought he pitched well,” Roberts said. “The score dictated that he should keep going.”
Roberts liked Urías’ matchup against the left-handed hitting Perez (who was hitless in two at-bats with a strikeout) to lead off the seventh, then planned to go to the bullpen.
But in a 1-and-1 count, Urías missed his location with a fastball right down the middle. Perez launched it for a solo home run to center that doubled the Pirates’ lead to 2-0. The Dodgers (19-8) never threatened again.
“Just a misfire,” Urías said through an interpreter. “One of those things where you can’t take it back.”
Though Roberts said the outcome won’t dictate future decisions on Urías’ usage — “I know he’s gonna want that fastball back from Perez,” Roberts said, “but I thought he pitched a nice ballgame” — the left-hander still felt like he’d missed an opportunity to punctuate his first outing this season to reach the seventh inning.
“I wanted to go out there [in the seventh], like I said last week, and wanted to compete in that inning,” Urías said through an interpreter. “Not being able to execute in that seventh inning was disappointing.”
The rest of the team faltered in critical moments too.
The Dodgers hit plenty of balls hard against Pirates starter José Quintana — they had eight hard hit balls of at least 95 mph off the left-hander, but got only one to drop for a hit — but failed to score against him in six innings.
By the time Edwin Ríos put the Dodgers on the board with a pinch-hit home run in the ninth, the Pirates (12-16) had already pulled away, scoring another run in the seventh against reliever Phil Bickford and adding two more in the eighth on a Jack Suwinski home run off Robbie Erlin.
“It’s baseball,” Roberts said. “They outhit us. They outpitched [us] tonight. And they won the ballgame.”
Chris Taylor left Monday’s game with a left knee bone bruise after fouling a ball off his leg. X-rays revealed no fracture. He is day to day … Pitching prospect Ryan Pepiot will likely start Wednesday’s series finale, though that decision isn’t official. Pepiot, who has a 2.05 ERA in triple A this year, joined the team on the taxi squad Monday.