ARLINGTON -- When Rangers manager Chris Woodward tweaked the usual lineup on Monday, he said it was to encourage Adolis García to “be that guy” and attack early on.
“It was late in the game," Woodward said. "I think that’s something we haven’t been doing, you know, [rallying in the] seventh, eighth and ninth. Today in the seventh and eighth, we won the game.”
Texas has consistently struggled late in the game. Its season-opening 10-8 loss to the Blue Jays was an example of that. But -- with credit to Willie Calhoun, who went 2-for-2 on Monday with two runs scored after entering as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning -- the Rangers didn’t let that happen again.
The top of the lineup played a big part in the rally. Marcus Semien tied the game in the seventh with an RBI single. Seager, who had just one hit in his last 16 at-bats entering the series opener, followed by driving in the go-ahead run. Then, García followed in the next inning with a bases-clearing three-run double.
“Those are the hits we’re going to need,” Woodward said.
García coming up big against the Astros isn’t anything new. Entering Monday, the outfielder was hitting .329/.373/.686 with seven homers, 17 RBIs and a 1.059 OPS in 17 games against Houston.
Back in May 2021, it was García who helped the Rangers secure a three-game series against the Astros with two walk-offs and three home runs in the series.
Dunning finds his groove
Dane Dunning’s first-inning struggles are real, Woodward said, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell Monday night.
Dunning, who entered the Lone Star Series with a 12.00 first-inning ERA, retired the Astros in order by way of a flyout sandwiched between a pair of strikeouts. But perhaps something noteworthy of his 5 2/3-inning performance was how he bounced back from a rough start to the second frame.
In Dunning’s last start against the Mariners on Thursday, he found his way out of a two-on, no-out jam in the first inning as Nathaniel Lowe turned a triple play. Dunning said pregame on Monday that it was a scary situation for him, and one that he didn’t want to be in again.
But a similar situation came in the second inning against the Astros. After Yordan Alvarez sent Dunning’s changeup 379 feet into the right-field stands, he gave up two more hits with no outs -- a double to Yuli Gurriel and a single to Kyle Tucker.
Dunning said Charlie Culberson’s diving catch to record the first out helped him find his mojo, as he induced a lineout and struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
“Overall, the defense was phenomenal behind me making plays, and Mitch [Garver] was just fantastic behind the plate,” Dunning said.
Dunning was pulled in the sixth inning after giving up a two-out single to Gurriel. At that point, he was nearing his limit of 90 pitches. He said he was unaware of the limit heading in, but he felt he could go for more and added that the last inning was the best he felt during the entire outing “stuff-wise.”
“Today ... I felt really comfortable with being able to go past 90 -- hopefully close to 100 pitches,” Dunning said. “Because when it comes to the long run, that’s what I’m going to have to do.”