Thursday newsletter time: Dane Dunning delivers as Rangers close in on playoffs
(AP photo/Jae C. Hong)
No matter what the math said, the Rangers played a must-win game Wednesday night.
A loss to the Angels, missing their two best players and seemingly falling apart internally, would have made things really uncomfortably heading into the final weekend of the season.
Thanks to Dane Dunning, the Rangers are all but assured of going back to the MLB postseason.
The right-hander allowed three hits in seven innings, and Adolis Garcia, Evan Carter and Marcus Semien homered in a 5-0 victory.
Coupled with a Mariners loss to the Astros, the Rangers all but clinched a playoff spot that would ensure meaningful October baseball for the first time since 2016. They also trimmed their magic number for the bigger prize, the American League West crown, to two games.
The Rangers need one win to wrap up no worse than the third wild-card spot. Two wins, two Astros losses or one of each will secure the division title and a first-round bye.
The Astros are off today while the Rangers and Mariners face off.
“Everybody’s in a really good spot right now,” Carter said. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Garcia was the offense for the first eight innings, collecting an RBI double in the first and connecting for a solo shot in the third inning. Carter delivered a two-run shot in the ninth, his fifth home run since his debut Sept. 8, and Semien followed with his 29th homer of the season and ninth this month.
Dunning cruised throughout, pitching out of trouble in the third after Garcia lost what turned into a leadoff triple by Michael Stefanic. That was the key moment in the game.
“Dane was the story of the game,” Bochy said.
Dunning struck out seven and walked one in improving to 12-6 with a 3.72 ERA. Considering the injuries the rotation has faced, Dunning should be selected as Rangers Pitcher of the Year. He should be in the 2024 rotation after starting this season in the bullpen.
The final series of the season has arrived, and it’s an important one with the Rangers and the Mariners still reaching for their goals.
The Rangers have already clinched the season series with the Mariners, which means they have the tiebreaker should the teams finished tied for a playoff spot without a three-way with the Astros. The Mariners will have to beat both Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi tonight and Friday to get to the weekend with a chance.
Jon Gray, despite wrist discomfort Monday, would be the Saturday starter while the Max Scherzer spot Sunday would likely be pitched by anybody with a pulse if Game 162 is a must-win.
Seattle is planning to start right-hander Logan Gilbert in the opener but have not announced the rest of the rotation. Brian Woo, Luis Castillo and George Kirby are possibilities.
The weather will be cool, as always, with highs in the upper 50s and lower 60s. There’s a chance for rain, as always, but it’s going to be damp.
Also note the start times: 6:15 p.m. on Saturday and 2:10 on Sunday. That’s a 12:10 p.m. start in Seattle as all MLB games on the final day of the season start at 3 p.m. EDT.
At least the Rangers will get to their next destination at a decent hour.
On the road again
Among the players in the Rangers’ dugout this road trip is right-hander Jacob deGrom, who had been doing his rehab work after Tommy John surgery in Arlington during previous Rangers road trips.
The Big A and T-Mobile Park have weight rooms, though deGrom isn’t doing much heavy lifting. He said last week that he’s been maxing out at 10 pounds on curls and five pounds on lateral raises.
He opted to travel because being around the team as it vies for the postseason is helping him keep his sanity while being unable to help on the field.
DeGrom anticipates being back next season in time to help them down the stretch during another playoff chase.
Me, with chips and salsa. Enjoy.
— out of context dogs (@contextdogs) September 27, 2023
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org