DENVER — On paper, the Dodgers have all it takes to be the best team in the Majors. But as they repeatedly mentioned after acquiring Freddie Freeman this spring, the games aren’t played on paper.
The Dodgers got a taste of that reality on the first weekend of the season. With a 9-4 loss to the Rockies on Sunday at Coors Field, the Dodgers dropped their first series of the 2022 season and the first at Coors Field since August 2018.
“We didn’t play good baseball,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I just don’t think that we played our type of baseball this series.”
It’s a long season. But let’s take a look at three takeaways from the Dodgers’ first series.
Urías’ velocity a concern
After winning 20 games last season — the only pitcher in baseball to accomplish the feat — Julio Urías came into camp this spring in much better shape. The Mexican left-hander lost a noticeable amount of weight. His hope was the weight loss would help him take an even bigger leap on the mound.
Though that could still be the case, Urías’ first start of the ’22 season turned out to be a disaster. Urías allowed six runs (three earned) and didn’t strike out a single batter over two-plus innings of work. He threw 57 pitches, just 33 of them for strikes.
“Just the sharpness, even in his last outing against the Angels [in Spring Training] wasn’t sharp, and it carried over to today,” Roberts said. “I certainly expect him to get on track as we continue this season.”
But perhaps more concerning than his stat line was that his velocity was significantly lower Sunday than at any point last season. In ’21, Urías averaged 94.1 mph with his four-seam fastball. On Sunday, Urías averaged 91.4 mph on the pitch, nearly a three mph dip. For more context, Urías averaged 94 mph in his first start last season, also at Coors Field.
“It was a weird day in every way,” Urías said in Spanish. “But I feel good physically and ready for the next start.”
While Urías suggested that his lack of command contributed to his struggles more than the velocity, there will be a lot of eyes on the radar gun next weekend when he takes the mound against the Reds at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers are going to rely heavily on him a lot this season.
“Today, I just don’t think there was anything he could go to or count on,” Roberts said.
Offense still finding itself
Once the Dodgers signed Freeman, the Los Angeles lineup stole all the headlines. It’s an offense that has plenty of firepower and will find its way as the season goes on. But it was an up-and-down performance this weekend at Coors Field.
Most of the damage for the Dodgers came in two innings: a five-run fourth Friday and a four-run frame Sunday. In the latter, they were aided by a three-run error by left fielder Kris Bryant.
Freeman and Mookie Betts are still trying to find their rhythm atop the lineup, combining for just five hits. Max Muncy has also struggled, starting the season 1-for-13 at the plate. One positive, however, was that Cody Bellinger recorded his first two hits of the season and reached safely three times Sunday.
“We expect to produce,” said Dodgers utilityman Chris Taylor. “We know we have, top to bottom, the best lineup in baseball, and we didn’t show that this weekend.”
It’s the little things
The Dodgers’ team defense and baserunning wasn’t up to their standard this weekend, either. Taylor misplayed a ball in left field in the first inning that gave the Rockies three early runs. There were 35 mph winds on Sunday at Coors Field, but Taylor admitted he should’ve made the play.
That misplay capped off a weekend that saw the Dodgers not turn a key double play Saturday and a few other baserunning errors. The Rockies, on the other hand, won the battle in those departments.
“I think it was a bunch of things compounded today,” Taylor said. “We definitely have a lot to improve on.”