Julio Urias has pitched in three games as an adult and each one has been serious business. On Saturday night, he looked like a seasoned veteran.
"The kid continues to blow me away with how mature he is on the hill. It's unbelievable," Rancho Cucamonga pitching coach Matt Herges said of the Dodgers' top pitching prospect. "If I was just a fan at the game tonight, I would guess he's an older guy, a leader on the team. He pitches like he has years and years of experience. You can't shake him. He stays composed and attacks the zone."
Urias, who turned 18 on Aug. 12, continued a trend on Saturday night in his longest outing of the season. He allowed two hits and three walks over 5 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out nine for the third time in as many appearances, but Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga fell to Stockton, 3-2.
"Stockton, as a team, they're a good hitting team. They're both aggressive and patient. They swing at fastballs and they swing hard. They have a lot of power," Herges said. "Julio, he just tamed them. He pretty much dominated."
The Mexico-born southpaw has allowed a total of one run over those last three appearances. He set a career high with nine strikeouts in an Aug. 13 start against San Jose, then matched that total over five innings of one-hit relief on Monday against Lake Elsinore on Monday. He's 1-2 with a 2.50 ERA this season.
"Every game, there are multiple things about him that make me say, 'Wow, this kid is special. We've got something special on our hands.' I love it," Herges said. "Expectations are high, of course, but I feel like a fan watching him sometimes because he just blows me away."
In his latest gem, Urias coasted his first time through the Ports' lineup, striking out the side in the second inning. He did not allow a hit until third-ranked A's prospect Renato Nunez doubled with two outs on a first-pitch changeup in the fourth. Nunez had struck out on a changeup in the second and, in Herges' view, going straight back to the off-speed pitch was a mistake.
"Not to slight [Nunez] at all -- he's a good hitter and that was a well-hit ball -- but in my opinion, this particular night the kid had a slow bat," he said. "A first-pitch changeup played right into him. I tell our pitchers and catchers all the time, a first-pitch changeup can look like a BP fastball because the hitter hasn't had anything to gauge it off. At least speed up, then throw a changeup.
"I hate second-guessing our catchers, the guys who are working their butts off back there for my pitching, but in that instance, I think that probably could have been avoided. But it's a learning experience, not only for Julio but for the catcher."
Urias walked the next batter, Jaycob Brugman, but got Ryon Healy to bounce out to end the frame. He struck out the side again in the fifth, which proved to Herges that the teenager was ready for another inning.
"If he'd labored in that inning, that would have been it," Herges said. "He had 76 [pitches] after the fifth and he's on a max of 90. [Quakes manager] P.J. [Forbes] said, 'That only gives him 14 for the inning.'
"I said, 'I know, but he needs to feel what it's like to pitch in the sixth inning with a two-run lead.' The fact that he struck out all three [in the fifth] made it a no-brainer for me. If I get a phone call from one of the higher-ups, I get a phone call. But my gut told me he had to go out for the sixth."
Top A's prospect Daniel Robertson led off the sixth with a single. Urias responded by fanning Chad Pinder, but Matt Olson -- Oakland's No. 2 prospect and the California League leader with 36 homers -- worked a walk to end Urias' night.
"We got him out before it was potentially a loss," Herges said. "I wanted to protect the win in line for him, but in my opinion, he needed to go back out in the sixth."
Daniel Tillman stranded Robertson and Olson to end the inning and keep Urias scoreless.
MLB.com's No. 17 overall prospect, Urias has struck out 105 while walking 37 over 82 2/3 innings in his first season in the Cal League.
"The fact that he's the age he is, facing these big Stockton guys, who have a lot of power, and he just handles them ... " Herges said. "I can't wait to talk to [A's Minor League instructor] Bret Boone -- I know him -- about what it was like in their dugout. I know they were probably saying, 'No way is this kid 18.'"
The Ports rallied in the ninth against Rob Rogers as Tyler Marincov and Ryan Gorton delivered RBI singles and Healy scoring on a wild pitch.
Jeremy Rathjen and Pratt Maynard both had two hits for the Quakes, with Rathjen driving in a run and scoring once.