February 2, 2023

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Dunning deals and coaxes 'funky swings' from Mariners

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ARLINGTON — As soon as Dane Dunning threw his first pitch — a 90.5 mph sinker that Jesse Winker dribbled over to second base for a routine out — you could tell he was dialed in.

The Rangers’ right-hander would only need six pitches to get through the first inning and nine to get through the second, and it wasn’t until there were two outs in the third that Seattle finally got a baserunner on via a Cal Raleigh double.

Dunning would ultimately give up just two runs on three hits with one hit batter over seven innings in Texas’ 4-3 loss to the Mariners on Friday night at Globe Life Field. Dunning felt like it was one of his best outings of the season as he moved expertly through Seattle’s lineup, inducing weak contact and notching his second-highest strikeout total of the season with seven.

“He was really good and really effective,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “Overall, he used all his pitches. The sinker was really good today and got a lot of weak ground balls off the end of the bat. He got a lot of funky swings on it. It was just the way he commanded the baseball, on both sides of the plate and using his changeup against those lefties. Just a really good outing for him.”

Dunning’s only two mistakes were a hit by pitch to Ty France in the fourth inning that would eventually score the first run of the game and a solo homer from Raleigh in the fifth. But he finished the outing by retiring the final seven batters he faced after the home run and exited with the lead. It was Dunning’s longest outing since he went 7 2/3 frames in a win over Atlanta on April 30.

“I felt strong, especially in the first couple innings,” Dunning said. “I hit a little rut, was just getting a little too quick with my delivery in the middle there. That’s the cutter that hit France. But after that, I felt good again. I was locating the ball a lot better today. I just thought that Seattle was a little bit aggressive coming out. They came out swinging, and it helped me be able to go longer in the game.”

It was exactly what the Rangers needed from Dunning as Mariners starter Logan Gilbert matched him blow-for-blow. Offensively, Texas was shut out for the first five innings, seemingly unable to string anything together for the first half of the game.

The Rangers plated two runs off Gilbert in the sixth with RBI doubles from Corey Seager and Kole Calhoun, but Woodward said he felt like they “left one on the table.”

“[Gilbert’s] got good stuff,” Woodward said. “He makes it really hard. He’s got a really neat fastball, like a unicorn fastball. It’s in the upper 90s, but it’s got a lot of carry. It’s really tough to square up, so I thought we actually did a decent job. A few of our guys squared him up pretty good early and just lined out or missed a few balls. … Logan’s a pretty special talent, obviously. I liked our approach in the beginning against him. They just didn’t really muster much.”

Dunning was in line for a win as he left the game with a 3-2 lead following Nathaniel Lowe’s go-ahead homer in the bottom of the seventh.

Instead, the game ended in perhaps the most unlikely of ways: Joe Barlow giving up a go-ahead two-run homer to Eugenio Suárez. It was the first time Barlow had blown a save this season and just the second in his short big league career.

Barlow has quickly become a reliable workhorse at the back end of the bullpen, but a fastball down the middle would cost the Rangers the game.

“Nobody’s perfect,” Dunning said. “Barlow goes out there and he’s going to give his best effort every single time. Suárez put a good, good swing on a good fastball. It was a grindy game and you can’t win them all. Again, no one’s perfect. He’s done a phenomenal job back there. I’ll definitely rely on him to go for every game from here on out to close it out.”

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