ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Dane Dunning is turning out to be just as good as advertised following a dominant outing against the Orioles on Saturday night in Globe Life Field.
The organization's No. 3 prospect entering the season, Dunning went six innings in the 6-1 loss, giving up five hits, but no walks or runs. His outing brought his ERA on the season to 0.60 and WHIP to 0.80. He’s got 16 strikeouts to just two walks across three starts.
Dunning prides himself on his command and the location of his pitches. After giving up two walks during his outing at Tampa Bay last week, he wanted to make sure that he could pound the zone and be more effective on the mound. He peppered the zone as much as he could against Baltimore, and it worked out in his favor.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said that Dunning pitching into contact early in counts made him efficient against them.
“I feel like the way I attack hitters and the way I perceive each at-bat [makes me effective],” Dunning said. “For the most part, starting off the game, I'll start working two-thirds of the plate. And from there, depending on if I'm effectively locating my pitches, I'll expand a little bit more here and there.”
The Rangers’ bullpen and offense were unable to hold the 1-0 lead that Dunning left the game with. Texas’ bats stranded 16 runners on base, while the bullpen gave up six unanswered runs on eight hits over the final three innings.
Dunning hasn’t given up a run since his first inning of action this season, a solo homer to Bo Bichette in the Rangers’ 7-4 win over the Blue Jays on April 6. He’s thrown 14 consecutive scoreless innings, the longest streak by a Ranger this season and the longest of Dunning’s young career.
He’s tied for third with Carlos Rodón of the White Sox for the longest scoreless streak in MLB this season, behind just San Diego’s Joe Musgrove (16) and former Rangers pitcher Lance Lynn (15 2/3), currently with the White Sox. Dunning and Lynn were traded for each other this past offseason.
“I'm honestly just able to locate my pitches, able to efficiently sync pitches,” Dunning said. “In certain situations, I’m able to just get them off timing and off rhythm. For the most part, I try to work early ground ball outs, and then if I can, sneak in a few strikeouts here and there.”
Dunning's dominance this season isn’t straight heat, either. His velocity topped out at 91 mph during Saturday’s matchup. He mainly threw his sinker against the Orioles, which accounted for 48 of his 75 total pitches.
Dunning has yet to throw a four-seam fastball this season. It was his third most-used pitch in 2020, but he said that it wasn't as effective against left-handed hitters as he had hoped for; he scrapped the pitch in favor of a cutter this season.
What makes Dunning so effective even when he’s not throwing gas is the movement and execution of the pitches that he does have. Woodward emphasized that Dunning’s sinker is the perfect pitch for a quick out, and it’s one that he uses most often.
“His 90-91 mph plays up and he's got elite movement on his pitches,” Woodward said. “He puts balls where he needs to put them. He's able to kind of take a little off on some pitches and move it down a couple of inches to try to get a swing and a miss.”
Dunning’s ability to get soft ground balls with the sinker early in the game has played in his favor to get swings-and-misses late in frames.
“Ultimately, I'm going to try to attack the zone as much as I can,” Dunning said. “The way I always see things is that a Hall of Fame hitter is .300. Seven out of 10 times, I'm getting them out. If I can just manipulate one or two of those at-bats, then the favor swings in my direction. So for the most part, I just trust what I got.”