Dunning deals 5 scoreless, keeps learning

Rookie right-hander impresses again, but Rangers drop finale to Rays

June 6th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers were primed for another series win over the defending American League champions, holding a one-run lead going into the eighth inning against the Rays on Sunday afternoon.

But what started as a phenomenal pitching performance from Texas’ staff -- including five scoreless innings from Dane Dunning and another two from Taylor Hearn -- quickly turned as Tampa Bay scored three runs in the eighth and four in the ninth to hand the Rangers a 7-1 loss at Globe Life Field.

It was Dunning’s fourth scoreless outing in 11 starts this season and his first since May 20 against the Yankees.

“Everything [was working for Dunning],” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “He was using all of his pitches. I think the slider was really good today. He was just really effectively mixing it in and had good command. He was getting a lot of guys off the barrel, using the changeup when he needed to. Overall, just kind of mixing his pitches.

“Dane's a competitor. He's learning, and he's talking about the right things. He's obviously grown a lot this year and had to deal with some adversity at times, and he keeps going out there fighting.”

Dunning said he utilized all of his pitches and established his offspeed stuff early in the game, allowing him to fill up the zone and attack hitters. While he commanded the ball well, he felt like he could have executed some pitches better to allow himself to get deeper in the game, having used 80 pitches to get through five.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said the Dunning-Hearn duo gave their hitters trouble for seven innings because of the different looks the two of them present, as Hearn’s fastball and slider play well off each other.

"It was not coming easy for us. Their guys pitched a tremendous ballgame,” Cash said. “Dunning's got the sinker that stays down. Hearn's got the big fastball that can carry and ride through the zone. You've got to be opportunistic when little things happen, when the bats kind of went quiet."

Tampa Bay’s opportunistic eighth started when Brandon Lowe reached on an error by Texas shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, which was followed by a slow-rolling infield single from Randy Arozarena and a walk by Mike Brosseau, all against left-hander John King. Rangers right-hander Josh Sborz entered with the bases still loaded and one out, then walked Yandy Díaz to tie the game before giving up a go-ahead two-run double to Taylor Walls.

The uncharacteristic throwing error from Kiner-Falefa, who won the American League Gold Glove Award at third base in 2020, ignited the Rays, but Woodward made sure to point out to both Kiner-Falefa and the media that the game was lost before that.

After taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Rangers couldn’t get anything else going offensively to back Dunning’s strong outing. Texas went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base.

Brock Holt and Jason Martin each had two hits, and Joey Gallo drew three walks. However there wasn't enough offense to put any pressure on the Rays' defense.

“We gave away too many at-bats early in the game,” Woodward said. “We had guys on base, we just did not come through. We’ve got to get better. I can point to some of their at-bats in critical moments where they fought off a certain pitch with two strikes, and we didn't. And we have the personnel. We have to get better.”