The Rangers have had some offensive struggles of late.
They finished a six-game homestand where they slashed a team collective .193/.252/.326 against the Blue Jays and Padres and were no-hit by San Diego on Friday night.
Those offensive struggles continued on Monday against the Rays with power pitcher Tyler Glasnow on the hill for Tampa Bay. But Texas had its own strong pitching performances that were able to match the Rays’ ace in the 1-0 loss.
Starter Dane Dunning looked sharp in his first outing of the year against the Blue Jays, and the Florida native continued the early season success on Monday at Tropicana Field. He kept Tampa Bay scoreless through four innings, allowed just two hits and struck out five batters while pitching in his home state for the first time in his big league career.
Despite the loss, the outing was the first that Dunning has made where extended family was present, making it a memorable night for him.
“I actually had lots of my family and friends here. It was just exciting for them to be able to see me [actually] in person this time,” Dunning said.
In both of Dunning’s outings, he didn’t pitch past the fifth inning despite allowing just one run combined in the two starts.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward said down the line, Dunning could pitch deeper in his outings if the opportunity presents itself
“[Dunning] gets better as outings go on, and I think at some point, you know, I just can’t wait ‘til I get the opportunity to just kind of let him roll in a game,” Woodward said
Lefty reliever Taylor Hearn came in to relieve the rookie Dunning in the fifth inning. In just three innings of work, Hearn struck out seven of the 12 batters that he faced.
The seven punchouts matched the franchise record for most strikeouts in a relief outing that was three innings or less. He also became just the second Rangers relief pitcher in the last seven seasons who has had a relief outing with seven or more strikeouts.
“[Hearn] came in and just blew their doors off,” Woodward said. “I mean, seven punchouts in just three innings.”
Hearn's only blemish in his outing was the difference-maker in the game.
In the seventh inning, Hearn’s first pitch fastball to Rays shortstop Willy Adames carried 376 feet, enough to leave the yard and give the Rays the difference-making run.
“Yeah it was a good outing for me, but I really feel bad that I gave up that solo shot, but I know it’s just part of the game,” Hearn said. “I think honestly, it’s just showing that everything I’ve worked on this offseason and worked on with [pitching coach Doug Mathis] and [pitching coach Brendan Sagara] have been paying off.”
Four of Hearn’s strikeouts came on his fastball, which averaged 94.9 mph and had a maximum velocity of 97.4 mph, according to Statcast.
Woodward said Hearn’s fastball makes him difficult to face for opposing hitters and compared it to Brewers reliever Devin Williams’ changeup, calling Hearn’s fastball, “a rarity.”
“There isn’t a left-hander in baseball that has the characteristics of [Hearn’s] fastball, so nobody has seen this,” Woodward said.