ARLINGTON -- Rangers right-hander Dane Dunning entered Friday night’s matchup against the Nationals with the eighth lowest run support average among American League starters this season.
That unfortunate stat continued when Dunning tossed six innings of one-run ball against Washington, and Texas eventually fell, 2-1, at Globe Life Field to open the three-game set. After the loss, the Rangers are now 3-12 in one-run games. Five of those losses have come this month.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “I think we learn from all of [the losses]. … Yes [we missed an opportunity] tonight. We’ve just got to play good baseball. Dane pitched well and kept us in the game. He gave us a chance to win. It's a missed opportunity to me when you’ve got a tie game with three innings left. We have to find a way to win that game.”
Though Dunning dealt with quite a bit of traffic, including seven hits allowed and one walk, he was able to get out of those situations clean more times than not.
Dunning notably won every battle with Nationals superstar Juan Soto, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and grounded into a double play in the third inning. Dunning did, however, surrender a pair of doubles to Josh Bell and Luis García in the sixth inning, allowing the Nats to score the first run of the game.
“I felt really good for the most part,” Dunning said. “I was able to keep them off balance. They had a good approach from the start, just trying to get under my sinker a little bit. We adjusted to the game plan a little bit and then it worked out. There in the sixth, I made just two mistake pitches, but that's about it.”
While Dunning and the bullpen did more than enough to put the Rangers in a position to win, the offense didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
Texas put eight hits on the board but struggled with runners in scoring position, finishing 0-for-11 and stranding 10 baserunners. That 0-for-11 total matched a club high over the last 10 years.
The Rangers had at least one runner on base in all but two innings and had runners in scoring position in all but three. Their lone run came off a game-tying solo shot from Adolis García in the bottom of the sixth.
“I wouldn’t say I was pleased [with the quality of at-bats with runners in scoring position],” Woodward said. “I think it took us a few too many times to understand how slow [Nats starter Paolo Espino’s] curveball was. We talked about it in the pregame. The difference between the fastball and curveballs is significant, like 20 mph. After that, we got a little bit better. We got decent pitches to hit there at the end. They had their best arms and that's what happens when you're playing a tie game in the seventh.”
The most glaring opportunity came in the bottom of the ninth inning. After Bell hit an RBI single off Dennis Santana to give the Nats the lead in the eighth inning, Josh Smith walked and Brad Miller singled to put runners on the corners with one out and the top of the lineup coming to the plate. But Marcus Semien popped out and Corey Seager flew out to end the game.
Woodward noted that they were facing a pitcher with elite stuff in Tanner Rainey, and he emphasized that it’s not easy to hit a 100 mph fastball. But he still acknowledged it was frustrating to come up short in such a well-pitched game, as did Semien.
“We scored one run, so I don't necessarily think we gave ourselves a great chance,” Semien said. “But [the Nationals] had a ton of opportunities as well. Dane kept us in the game and our bullpen did what they could. Dennis threw the ball fine and just ran into a good hitter and a ball that found a hole. So I'm not surprised we lost the way we hit, but we have to come back tomorrow and see what we can do.”