'Future is bright' as youth powers Texas to DH split

May 9th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Over a span of eight months from December 2020 to July '21, the Rangers made a series of trades to deal some of their biggest stars in the midst of a full-scale rebuild. 

Among the return in those trades were the starting pitchers in Sunday’s doubleheader against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium: Dane Dunning (who came from the White Sox for Lance Lynn) and Glenn Otto (who came over in a prospect package from the Yankees for Joey Gallo). 

Texas split the doubleheader against the Yankees, losing Game 1 and taking Game 2, but Dunning and Otto allowed just three runs combined to limit one of baseball’s most powerful offenses to start the series.

“The future is bright,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “I think that that's probably the biggest takeaway from that. These two guys came into a pretty hostile environment here and pitched well. But I think in the long term, just getting those guys, we will have guys for a while. They’re two guys that work as hard as anybody with a ton of talent. So it's pretty promising.”

Dunning opened the first game, which the Rangers eventually lost 2-1, with five no-hit innings before the Yankees finally got on the board with an infield single and sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth.

Otherwise, he dominated New York’s lineup while throwing a season-high 100 pitches through six innings. It was more pitches than he threw in any start in 2021 and the second-highest total of his career.

“This year I don't really have restraints that I did last year,” Dunning said. “Now, [Woodward] is allowing me to go longer. I think this is the first time I hit 100 pitches, and I loved every minute of it. Especially because I was able to get out of that sixth inning myself. It's a good feeling.”

Dunning allowed just two hits and walked three in his outing, but the Rangers' defense also committed three fielding errors behind him. Each time, Dunning was able to work out of jams, striking out five and inducing one double play. He lowered his season ERA to 3.38.

"We had some traffic on them,” said Yankees starter Gerrit Cole. “I thought Dunning was pretty exceptionally sharp; I’ve never seen him that good, certainly. We just couldn’t push through."

In Game 2, which the Rangers won, 4-2, Otto faced off against the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 MLB Draft and then traded him for Gallo at last year’s Deadline. His outing wasn’t as clean as Dunning's, but the right-hander tossed five innings, allowing just two hits and two runs.

His lone mistake was on a slider up and away to Giancarlo Stanton, who launched it 427 feet into the Rangers’ bullpen in right-center field. Otto admitted afterward that his execution wasn’t as sharp as it could have been throughout the outing.

He also issued three walks, two of which came in the leadoff spot.

“I just have to focus on executing pitches,” Otto said. “If I could go out there and go for a nine-inning complete game with 27 strikeouts every time, I would. But this game brings a lot of adversity, and it's more about how you respond. I'm always trying to get ahead and execute every pitch that I can to get every hitter out. It's something that will be a priority this week.”

Otto’s early success is even more notable because he wasn’t on the Rangers’ Opening Day roster. The 26-year-old was recalled as an injury replacement, and instead of returning to Triple-A Round Rock, he’s forced his way to stay with the big league club ever since.

In three starts (14 1/3 innings), he’s allowed just five earned runs for an ERA of 3.14. Woodward joked that if Sunday was Otto’s worst outing, then the Rangers are in a pretty good place.

“Glenn works harder than anybody, so I think he's earned it,” Woodward said. “That's the beauty of having young players that want to get better. They want to learn, they want to know what's the next step in their evolution to becoming a better big league player. He's all-in. He’s been pretty impressive.”