February 2, 2023

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Dunning ready to move past uneven start

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ARLINGTON — Dane Dunning said he felt like he didn’t do much to set the tone for the Rangers Friday night against the Red Sox. It was subtle, with the right-hander walking Kiké Hernández in the leadoff spot to open the game.

But like he’s done for most of the season, Dunning got out of that frame clean, as he did again in the second when he retired Boston’s 5-6-7 batters in order.

In the third inning, Dunning issued a two-out walk to Hernández again, and this time it did come back to bite the Rangers after a wild pitch and an RBI single from Rafael Devers put Boston up 1-0. Things spiraled out of control in the sixth when the Red Sox teed up Dunning throughout the lineup to score four runs and chase him out of the game.

The Rangers would eventually lose, 7-1, to the Red Sox at Globe Life Field as Dunning turned in his worst start of the season, moving his ERA to 4.06 on the year.

“I just didn’t execute pitches when I needed to,” Dunning said. “The defense really needed me to get out there and get an out, hopefully a swing and miss, but I just kind of left a couple of cutters middle-middle. If I execute those pitches, it’s totally different. If it goes up above the bat or something, but I just left them middle-middle.”

Dunning struck out six, but allowed a season-high five runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings. It was the most runs he surrendered in any outing since his first and only other start against the Red Sox at Fenway in 2021 (five runs in 4 2/3 innings).

He also entered the game having never allowed more than four runs at Globe Life Field in a single appearance (17 games/16 starts).

“[I felt good going into the game] for the most part,” Dunning added. “I was a little wild, but I think it worked for me a little bit effectively throughout the first couple innings. I threw a horrible, horrible slider to J.D. Martinez and got really lucky with that pitch. Usually when I throw a really bad slider, it gets hit to the moon. I just wasn’t really finishing pitches when I needed to. And it came back to bite me in the end.”

Dunning said he wanted to stay in the game and finish the sixth inning off after recording two outs, but he also recognized that he didn’t give Rangers manager Chris Woodward much of a reason to keep him in there.

Woodward concurred, saying he considered going to reliever Brett Martin one batter earlier. Martin gave up one hit, but quickly got out of the inning.

“Honestly on a couple pitches in the sixth inning, he made some mistakes, like [Alex] Verdugo’s [double],” Woodward said of Dunning. “That was hit pretty hard to left. He looked good up to that point. The pitch count was low and everything looked sharp. It’s just baseball. He just made a mistake and they made him pay for it offensively.”

Dunning emphasized that execution is the No. 1 thing he needs to work on going forward. The 27-year-old has been one of the Rangers’ best pitchers this season, and his ability to continue that will be vital for the club’s success.

“Right now my goal is just to put it in the back of my head and just go on to the next,” Dunning said. “It’s not something that I want to dwell on. Obviously I need to be better at executing, especially in two-strike counts. I think there were way too many sliders that were left in the zone that those hitters were able to handle. They had a good lineup, had a good approach and I just didn’t finish those at-bats.”

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