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MLB: Dodgers send Julio Urias to mound in bid to sweep Pirates

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The Los Angeles Dodgers will shoot for a sweep of their three-game series against the host Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.

It would be the sixth series sweep of the season for the Dodgers, who aren’t winning quite at last year’s pace but certainly aren’t falling from contender status.

After beating the Pirates 5-3 on Tuesday and 2-1 on Wednesday, Los Angeles is 36-25 through 61 games. The Dodgers went 43-17 in the 2020 season that was abbreviated to 60 games due to the pandemic, winning the National League West and going on to win the World Series.

Los Angeles is currently two games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants in the NL West.

“Obviously, we’d like to be leading the standings; we’re not,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Our best baseball, in my opinion, is yet to come.”

With a quick turnaround — Wednesday’s game had a 70-minute rain delay at the start, and Thursday’s game is an early afternoon start — the Los Angeles bullpen could be a bit taxed.

Five Dodgers relievers had to cover 7 1/3 innings Wednesday after starter Tony Gonsolin bowed out early in his return from a shoulder injury.

Pittsburgh, which is 5-6 in its past 11 games, just last weekend got back to what could be considered a normal lineup. The top four in the order were set when a couple players returned from the injured list. One of them, first baseman and cleanup hitter Colin Moran, could be headed right back to the IL.

Moran left in the fifth inning Wednesday after he was hit on the back of the right hand by a pitch. The team reported that he would be further evaluated Thursday.

“It’s frustrating,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “One of our better hitters, our four-hole hitter. … We just have to wait and see what the results are.”

After scoring 23 runs while going 3-1 in a weekend series against the Miami Marlins, the Pirates have managed four runs in two games against the Dodgers.

“We’ve created scoring opportunities, and we have not gotten the big hit at times,” Shelton said.

In the series finale, Los Angeles left-hander Julio Urias (8-2, 3.48 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander Mitch Keller (3-6, 6.65).

Urias did a Jekyll and Hyde impersonation in his past two starts. On May 29, in his poorest outing of the year, he gave up seven runs, six earned, and 11 hits in five innings in an 11-6 loss to San Francisco.

Then on Friday at Atlanta, he allowed one run and four hits in five innings in a 9-5 win, and he even bunted in a go-ahead run.

“That felt good,” Urias said in Spanish of the comeback start. “It’s what they asked of me, and I was able to do it, and after me, the offense came in and exploded in the way it needed to.

“My mechanics were a little different at first because I was so anxious, but after talking with the coaches, I was able to get back on track.”

Urias is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in four career games, one of them a start, against Pittsburgh.

Keller, who has never faced the Dodgers, was iffy to make this start for a couple days after his last outing. On Friday against Miami, he left after two innings because of what the Pirates dubbed “heat illness,” then went on the COVID-19 injured list for two days.

He is back and looking to come closer to his performance of two appearances ago. He went five scoreless innings May 29 to get the victory in a 4-0 win against the Colorado Rockies.

–Field Level Media

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