Rookie Dunning, White Sox cruise past Twins

September 16th, 2020

CHICAGO -- had made four career starts prior to taking the mound for the White Sox during a 6-2 win against the Twins on Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Two of those starts came against the Royals, and one each were against the Tigers and Pirates, three teams Chicago finished a combined 21-3 against this season. But a decided step up in competition did not bother the rookie right-hander.

Dunning allowed one earned run on three hits over seven innings while striking out seven as he improved to 2-0 overall and further staked a claim to one of the White Sox top three starting spots in the playoff rotation. Dunning’s effort stood at the center of a sixth consecutive win for Chicago (32-16) and its 10th win in 11 games since losing two in a row to the Twins at Target Field. They have gone 22-5 since losing a doubleheader to the Cardinals and falling to 10-11.

The White Sox also improved to 5-0 in games started by Dunning.

“I just tried to go out there, get early outs, get ground balls, try to get us to the second half of the game,” said Dunning, who set a career-high for innings pitched and matched a career-high in strikeouts. “That’s a really good lineup we’re facing. I was just trying to get us to that second half of the game where our relievers can come in and close it out.”

“Honestly what I think it all boils down to is his composure,” said catcher , who doubled and homered in the victory. “That's a playoff-type atmosphere, that's a heck of a lineup [Dunning] went up against. Honestly, he didn't even really have his four-seam tonight. He was mostly all two-seam, and he found a way to get through it. He didn't have his best command that I've seen from him, yet this is the deepest he went into a game yet. It's his composure and his ability to make adjustments on the fly that has been so fun to be a part of.”

Minnesota scored a run in the third on Byron Buxton’s inside-the-park home run and another in the fifth on an RBI groundout. Dunning walked two in the fourth but struck out Miguel Sanó and retired Travis Blankenhorn on a fly out to escape the threat unscathed.

“I’m just enjoying myself right now,” Dunning said. “I’m happy to be where I’m at, and I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

“He’s not arrogant, he’s confident. He has a quiet confidence about him,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s an individual who trusts himself and trusts his stuff. That’s the best way I can put it.”

Tuesday’s win pushed the White Sox American League Central lead to three games over the Twins and reduced their magic number to two to clinch their first playoff spot since 2008. They have staff ace starting Wednesday and potentially on Thursday, giving Chicago a great chance for a series win in this four-game set with Minnesota.

and led the offense, as they have all season. Anderson homered among his two hits and two runs scored, giving the shortstop a Major League-best .377 batting average and 12 hits in his last 19 at-bats. Abreu had three hits and scored one, and Luis Robert singled home two off Minnesota starter Randy Dobnak during a three-run third.

Beating the Twins had potentially stood as a barometer of how the White Sox could handle playoff-caliber teams with October approaching. But with pitchers such as Dunning emerging behind the AL’s best offense, maybe other teams should be judging themselves against the White Sox.

“Something that's so fun about this lineup is you just try to get it to the next guy,” McCann said. “There's never a moment where you're in the box and you're like, 'I have to get this done.'

“There's a guy behind you that can get it done. The term 'hitting' is contagious; that's part of what it means. You're not trying to do too much because you know the guy behind you has got your back. That's something that's so fun. You look up and down our lineup and there are no breaks."