Dane Dunning and the bullpen help secure a series win for the Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners are coming for the crown that Houston has worn in the American League West for five of the last six seasons. They met in a series was a test for both squads as both are about equal in talent. Seattle is trying to prove that 2022 was not a fluke. Texas is trying to prove that this start is not a mirage. The Rangers won a pitchers' duel 2-1 on Monday night. Seattle bounced back with a win on Tuesday 5-0 against Andrew Heaney.

Wednesday's game was the rubber match with Dane Dunning going up against Luis Castillo. Dunning was making his second start since stepping in for the injured Jacob deGrom. Castillo was looking to rebound from a rough stretch. He had allowed seven runs combined in his last two starts as well as seven walks between the two starts.

Seattle jumped out early to a 1-0 lead after J.P. Crawford scored on a single that was hit to Robbie Grossman in left field and then the throw was mishandled by Marcus Semien that allowed Crawford to score. Dunning got out of the inning without any more damage done by the Mariners. He then got into a groove that lasted until the fifth.

The Rangers who were shut out on Tuesday night, did not stay quiet today. Their offensive leader Marcus Semien got it all started with this blast.

That home run came after a second inning where they forced Castillo to throw 25 pitches and loaded the bases. Josh Smith struck out to end that rally. In the third they cashed in with the Semien home run. Nathaniel Lowe doubled home a run. Jonah Heim also had an RBI single. Texas jumped ahead and took a 3-1 lead in the third inning.

Dane Dunning's performance for the Texas Rangers

Dane Dunning did not run into trouble again until the fifth inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Julio Rodriguez. Then he struck out the next two batters on a wicked slider and a cutter. Kolten Wong then lofted a fly ball to left fielder Robbie Grossman, who could not get to the ball. Left fielder Robbie Grossman are four words that hopefully soon will be ancient history. He is not a good defensive outfielder. He is slow, takes poor routes to the ball, and does not have a strong arm. That misplay did cost the Rangers a run as Crawford followed up with an RBI single that cut the Rangers' lead to 3-2.

The Rangers bounced right back with a run in the next half inning. Hits by Duran and Smith put runners on the corners. Semien then singled home Duran to increase the lead to 4-2. Semien is now 10-12 getting runners in from 3rd with less than 2 outs.

Dunning though was not done yet. His previous longest stint this season was five innings. He finished his day by getting all three hitters he faced in the sixth out. His final line was six innings, six hits, two runs, five strikeouts, and one walk.

The case can be made that Dunning has been the Rangers' most important pitcher. He excelled in the pen in April by staring with six scoreless appearances totaling 15-1/3 innings. Then, Jacob deGrom goes down and Dunning steps right in and is making sure that the team is not missing a beat without their ace. He has now pitched 11 innings in his first two starts and has given up two runs. His ERA is now 1.72 on the season. That is the best on the Rangers' staff and according to Jared Sandler he is the fourth-best among pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings.

Texas Rangers bullpen closes the door

The game went on after Dunning was removed. The maligned Josh Sborz was brought on in the seventh. The Josh Sborz who has been on DFA watch since last season ended. Josh Sborz who was only saved from being released by an ankle injury that put him on the IL. That Josh Sborz was brought on in a two-run game. He had his best appearance this season. He gave up a long fly out to Julio Rodriguez. Then he struck out Teoscar Hernandez and A.J. Pollock. His stuff was great, it was under control, and it was missing bats. He threw 13 pitches. five of them were whiffs, and only three were balls. If the Rangers can get that guy more consistently he can be in that 7th or 8th inning role. The lack of consistency is what put Sborz on the bubble to make the team out of camp.

The eighth inning was started by Brock Burke. It was the second time he went in this series. This time the Mariners had a bit more success. Jarred Kelenic struck out against Burke on Monday night with runners on base. This time with a runner on first he split the left field gap and scored Jose Caballero from first. All of a sudden it was a one-run game and Jonathan Hernandez was being summoned to hold onto the lead. Hernandez started by walked Eugenio Suarez on six pitches. Then Cal Raleigh, who hit the home run last season that clinched a playoff spot for Seattle, came up. Raleigh and Hernandez battled through nine grueling pitches, but in the end Hernandez won out. He struck out Raleigh on a 3-2 count to end the threat and allow the Rangers to take the lead to the ninth inning.

In the ninth Will Smith was brought in for the save. Much like Monday night he leaned heavily on the slider. He threw 12 pitches and all but three of them were sliders. He ended up with two strikeouts and a groundout to end the game. The Rangers won the game 4-3. The Rangers pick up their first series win in Seattle since 2019. Dunning picked up his first road win since September 2020. His first road win with fans in the stands in his major league career. The Rangers improved to 10-3 now against teams that were in the playoffs last season. That would include the Phillies, Astros, Yankees, and now Mariners.

The record improved to 22-14 on the season. They are now 4-2 on this road trip. They head to Oakland to finish up the trip before heading home for a quick six-game homestand. The Texas Rangers continue to answer questions, continue to silence the doubters, and most importantly continue to win baseball games.