White Sox 6, Twins 2: Dane Dunning aces the test

White Sox win

It was well-known that Dane Dunning’s fifth major league start would be his stiffest test. Facing the Minnesota Twins offense would be like hiking up a mountain compared to the stroll he had against the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Pittsburgh Pirates. Yet, for a pitcher who hadn’t appeared in a game since 2018, Dunning’s early success is highly remarkable. No matter the result, the White Sox would learn more about Dunning’s staying power in the majors.

Throwing 102 pitches, Dunning completed seven innings of work and only allowed two runs as the White Sox beat the Twins, 6-2, thereby increasing their AL Central lead to three games with 12 to go.

The White Sox took the first lead against Twins pitcher Randy Dobnak thanks to three singles from Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, and Eloy Jimenez. Anderson and Abreu made Dobnak work by making him throw seven pitches before allowing a hit to both. With runners on the corners, the Twins shifted to pull position against Jimenez.

Jimenez drove the first sinker he saw from Dobnak through the infield’s right side, beating the shift. That was his 22nd two-out RBI of the season, which leads the majors.

There was a chance for the White Sox to extend their lead in the second inning. Adam Engel showed that Luis Robert is not the only 70-grade runner on the team by beating out a grounder hit to second base. The next pitch from Dobnak hit Nick Madrigal right in the back. With one out, it appeared the Sox were in business with Anderson and Moncada approaching. Instead, Anderson flew out on the first pitch, and Moncada whiffed on a 3-2 sinker ending the threat.

Leading off the third inning, Byron Buxton made the Sox pay for not capitalizing. After he had an inside-the-park home run taken away from him last night, Buxton hit a long drive to center field, which Luis Robert was tracking well but mistimed his jump. Both the ball and Robert bounced off the wall. Buxton turned on the jets rounding the bases and slid headfirst safely into home, tying the game.

While Robert couldn’t come up with the highlight catch, he did provide a big hit. The Sox retook the lead when James McCann hit an RBI double with his trademark swing splitting the right-centerfield gap. That was a scoring opportunity because after Grandal walked, Abreu hit another hard grounder, but this time Jorge Polanco was able to field it. However, his throw sailed wide of second base into right field, allowing Grandal to advance to third base.

Next was Robert. Struggling mightily in September at the plate (4-for-39), Robert was quickly down 0-2 in the count. After watching a slider out of the zone and fouling off a sinker, Robert squared up on Dobnak’s low sinker through the infield for a two-RBI single putting the Sox up 4-1.

Buxton continued to be the Twins one-person offense in the fifth inning. After hitting a single, Buxton advanced to second and third base thanks to McCann having difficulty gloving Dunning’s pitches. Thanks to defensive miscues, Buxton gained anywhere from four to six extra bases halfway through the game. Ryan Jeffers drove in Buxton with an RBI groundout to second base and cut the Sox lead in half.

But every time Buxton scored, the White Sox quickly responded. Facing old friend Tyler Clippard, Anderson flexed his power by muscling out an inside changeup for his 8th home run.

Entering the seventh inning, Dunning entered uncharted waters despite smooth sailing against one of the American League’s better offenses. Outside of Buxton, only Nelson Cruz could muster a hit against Dunning which was a harmless single. At times, Dunning was much like Dylan Cease was last night by consistently falling behind hitters. Unlike Cease, Dunning avoided a high walk total and was able to battle back in at-bats to rack up seven strikeouts.

With a three-run lead, Rick Renteria decided to test his rookie. It started by striking out Miguel Sano a second time on a slider away. Next was Travis Blankenhorn, who fell behind quickly 0-2, but Dunning’s high fastball clipped the elbow guard. With Buxton on deck, it seemed like a good time for Renteria to pull Dunning and applaud him for his excellent start.

Instead, Renteria kept Dunning out there to face Buxton for the third time. On an 0-1 sinker, Buxton drove a flyball to deep right field only to die on the warning track with Engel under it for the second out. The inning and Dunning’s night ended when his sinker was called for strike three against Ryan Jeffers. The pitch was low with McCann attempting to frame it back in the zone, and home plate umpire Will Little punched out Jeffers. That prompted Twins manager Roco Baldelli and Cruz to argue with Little, and both were thrown out of the game.

McCann decided to provide more fireworks by blasting a solo shot in the bottom half, adding an exclamation point on the night. Jace Fry made his return off the Injured List a successful one by striking out four, and Matt Foster wrapped up the last two outs.

Game Notes

  • The season series with the Twins is now tied 4-4
  • Dunning’s final line: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K. His season ERA is now 2.33.
  • Tim Anderson went 3-for-5 and his batting average is now .377. 
  • Jose Abreu also had three hits
  • Rick Renteria may need to keep McCann in the lineup as his season OPS is now .984
  • Luis Robert stole two bases after his two-RBI single. The second steal of third base proved that he’s human.

Record: 32-16 | Box Score | StatCast

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MrStealYoBase

Game 3 starter and I don’t think it’s particularly close at this point.

Also this is the best lineup the Sox can put forward come playoff time. Edwin being behind on 94mph fastballs gets you nowhere and Engel’s speed and defense make him a plus even if he isn’t also outhitting Mazara by a wide margin.

One game at a time though. Let’s get it tomorrow!

GoGoSoxFan

Renteria must be reading the comments here. Grandal as DH, Engel vs a RH starter and Dyson in for Eloy in the ninth inning. Also too he gave Cordero a night off.

HallofFrank

I agree on game 3 starter. I pushed back on this a few weeks ago (after Dunning’s second start, I think) for lack of experience—especially against good teams. He’s proved himself, though, and deserves to be above Cease in the rotation.

With a few more starts under his belt, we might be talking about a Dunning ROY.

Eagle Bones

Welcome to Team Dunning!

In all seriousness, I actually don’t think he looked as good as his line would indicate. But being that he was facing by far his toughest opponent and he gutted out a solid performance, I don’t think this is anything to complain about. Hopefully he can get the crispness back on his breaking stuff next time out.

As Cirensica

Engel’s speed and defense make him a plus even if he isn’t also outhitting Mazara by a wide margi

Actually, he is outhitting Mazara, and by a wide margin.

burning-phoneix

Engel always seems to be hot with the bat every season till regression sets in but even if Engel completely reverts to his 2019 subpar hitting self he’s still better than current Nomar. I say keep Mazara on the bench, give Menenchino a project to work on.

MrStealYoBase

@burning-phoneix That’s the sentiment I was trying to convey. I guess I should have been more clear. He’s definitely outhitting Mazara but even if he wasn’t he’d be the better play.

As Cirensica

Engel has evolved. I actually believe he can be a decent regular if he could shrink the gap between facing RHP vs LHP

joewho112

I decided to check:
Engel is OPSing .713 against RHP vs. Mazara’s .566 so yeah, no real point in playing Mazara in the playoffs

Milky✌️

Very psyched for Dunning to continue to turn up. Couldn’t come at a better time. He was always a guy I paid extra attention to in the minors, and especially after Zack Collins called him a nerd in an interview I can no longer find.

What’s extra fun about that Robert slide is that he still had easily enough momentum from that point to still reach the base. That’s gotta be what, five feet?

burning-phoneix

and especially after Zack Collins called him a nerd in an interview I can no longer find.

I tried googling “Zach collins dane dunning nerd” because I was interested and your comment here was like the first result lol.

tommytwonines

It might be time for a #Timmy400 watch. 12 games left, yes it’s a short season, but this is getting George Brett-like circa 1980 or so, yes?

oldtimer

James McCann has been terrific. I realize he may want a starting gig somewhere else with the Sox committed to Grandall. In this makeshift season does the QO still exist? I’m assuming yes. Is it still $17 – $18M for one year. If James does not want to sign an extension with the Sox (assuming a fair multi-year offer on our part) I would think we would be well served to do that. It seems like a win win. Possibly one year of James at a high price or a nice draft pick. Am I delusional with this thinking???

Jason.Wade17

It’s an interesting discussion/idea. That’s a lot of money to commit to a backup catcher/part time DH. Assuming there is a limit to how the money could be spent, I’d rather spend that money to fix RF and more SP.

McCann has earned the discussion and with him leaving I don’t feel comfortable with the depth the Sox have on the bench. With Vaughn coming up eventually in 2021 and if Grandal were healthy, I just don’t see enough at bats coming to McCann to warrant a $18 million back up plan.

oldtimer

I don’t disagree. I’m thinking the odds are very high he would get a multi-year offer from another team. (Hence draft pick) Our riskiest outcome is a one year deal at $18M. Not crippling to our financials. At a minimum, we would have Herera and EE money to make up the differential in this year’s McCann salary and $18M. I would be OK either way. Vaugn can earn his promotion while McCann, Grandall & Abreu split Catcher, 1B and DH. But i agree $18M is alot. Also, if he stays I view James more as a platoon than a back-up.

dwjm3

It may be crippling to ur finances with Jerry doing the budgeting. If we decline our options for EE and Chisek I believe we are at 90 mil committed for next year so 18 to McCann puts us at 108 before a starting pitching upgrade or right field help.

I think our payroll should probably climb to 160ish in the window who knows what Jerry is thinking..

joewho112

If they make the expanded playoffs permanent, that could lead to more competition for free agents so all upgrades will be more expensive

dwjm3

I actually think the playoffs being expanded may not make any difference. It is possible owners don’t add thinking they can snatch a 7 or 8 seed. Some owners would love to sell their fanbase on all we can control is making the playoffs and we did that. We need the right breaks to go all the way.

joewho112

My thought: in the normal playoff format, there is no value in moving from 75 wins to 81 wins so no point bothering with 30+ year old free agents. In the new playoff format, there is value in doing so.

Granted there is less value in moving from 85 wins to 90+ wins (especially if they keep making high seeds play first round games). But naturally, there are a lot more teams in the 75-85 win range and not many in the >85 win range.

Eagle Bones

Yeah, I’m with you on this. It’s bummer to let him walk for no return, but I think that’s the right move. He’s obviously playing over his head to some degree and the fit just isn’t there for bringing him back vs. what he’s going to get offered by other teams. Take whatever money Jerry is willing to throw out there and spend it on RF, SP and the pen. Wish James well and thank him for two good years.

As Cirensica

Hahn needs to be creative. I think it is a great idea to keep McCann. A rotating DH/1B/C between Abreu, Grandal, and McCann can work wonders in keeping them healthy and productive. Catching is demanding. Abreu is 33. There is potential to maximize their production and keeping wear and tear at bay.

The problem is Vaughn. He might be 1 year away from knocking on the Majors.

knoxfire30

Vaughn is the opposite of a problem. He creates depth, and provides a headlining piece a contending team can afford to trade to upgrade their overall roster more efficiently. I keep mentioning Vaughn for mini Yaz… gives the sox a lefty hitting CF’er who can shift to RF and be a plus defender / hitter, he has 4 or 5 years control too. Giants should look to move him as he is 30 and doesnt fit their window. They also dont have a good DH option and have Belt signed for only 1 more season. Deal almost makes too much sense.

evenyoudorn

I may be overthinking the “losing the DH” thing, but for the playoffs, would there be any sense in leaving Mazara or EE (doubtful) off in favor of a 3rd catcher? The best starting lineup obviously includes Grandal and McCann.

knoxfire30

They probably will bring on a 3rd catcher but I would bet at that point they drop an arm from the pen or rotation… hard to see how lopez for example fits in a 3 game series since he has no recent bullpen experience and dunning and cease are well ahead of him in a bid to start game 3 .

peanutsNcrackerjack

QO is a great idea. Two all-star quality catchers allowed to remain fresh over a162 game season is a distinct competitive advantage entering the playoffs. Payroll remains below average for a contending team. Worst case is a draft pick, not $17.5 million McCann for a year. Then get a legit left-handed batting outfielder. No more projects. The Sox won’t see many lefty pitchers with this lineup next year.

HallofFrank

Why not offer him something like 2/3 years, $16/24m instead of 1 year at $18m? The Travis D’Arnaud signing is probably a good barometer for James, and D’Arnaud got 2 years, $16m. James might have a slightly higher upside, but D’Arnaud had a longer track record of success.

One year, $18m seems way too steep. Especially, as others have mentioned, with the presumed emergence of Vaughn, which would likely cut James’s playing time in half.

metasox

Besides the money, I don’t see the org doing that to McCann. Unless the Sox have something akin to full-time in mind, I see him getting the best offer he can.

HallofFrank

A QO is probably best case scenario for McCann. Here are the players who received QOs in 2019: Abreu, Bumgarner, Cole, Donaldson, Odorizzi, Ozuna, Rendon, Smith, Strasburg, Wheeler. Marcell Ozuna actually ended up taking a one-year, $18m offer.

In a suppressed market for lack of fans, James McCann would be thrilled to get a QO—and he’d accept in a heart beat (assuming $ is the only motivating factor). I’d think the Sox could at least get 2 years out of an $18m offer. The QO to McCann doesn’t make sense for the Sox.

metasox

I don’t see much in the way of FA catchers to get excited about. Realmuto? I think he winds up with more than people are expecting.

Elena

Would the unthinkable be possible? Re-sign McCann, use Collins as back-up catcher and trade Grandal for pitching or corner outfield.

knoxfire30

Real solid effort.

Hard not to think the McCann or Grandal DH thing is becoming more likely with EE’s struggles and Engel has done just about all he can to overtake Mazara.

Dunning stepping up is huge, especially the way the first couple rounds of the playoffs are formatted with no off days. Really favors teams with 4 or 5 quality starters as oppose to teams who can ride one or two aces at the top.

metasox

No off days during each series seems a big deal that hasn’t yet received attention. From what I read, all three series before the WS have no off days. Doesn’t seem well-suited to the Sox rotation situation

Brett R. Bobysud

Don’t look now but…

…as of this morning, Timmy has a higher fWAR (2.4) than Mike Trout does (2.3).

He’s tied with Rendon for the AL lead in fWAR and he’s second in the AL in bWAR just behind Abreu (2.3 v 2.4)

HallofFrank

Tim Anderson: .377/.414/.605, 178 wRC+, 0 DRS, 2.4 fWAR, 2.3 bWAR
Mike Trout: .295/.403/.639, 173 wRC+, -12 DRS, 2.3 fWAR, 1.1 bWAR (!)

ParisSox

-12 DRS for Trout doesn’t seem possible. But it’s there on FG.

HallofFrank

The 1.1 bWAR is also surprising. The metrics do not like his fielding this year, that’s for sure.

burning-phoneix

M!V!P! M!V!P!M!V!P! M!V!P!M!V!P! M!V!P!

joewho112

Magic number for the playoffs is 3. For the division, it is 9

joewho112

What’s the deal with Robert? I haven’t been able to watch recently. Is it fatigue? Did the league adjust and he hasn’t readjusted yet? Just hitting the ball at guys?

evenyoudorn

I’ve seen a lot of slider low-away, slider low-away, fastball up/in. Or at least I think I have?

Adjustments to the adjustments and all that.

metasox

What limited at-bats I have seen recently, he seems to be fouling off pitches in his wheelhouse

texag10

Stone said last night that he thought Robert was starting to see the ball better because of his walk in game one and that just struck me as odd. Stone is obviously universes more knowledgeable about the game than I am but it just appears to me that it’s the complete opposite. He’s taking pitches in his wheelhouse and swinging at pitches 6+ inches outside the zone. Either he is just going up to the plate without a plan, he’s disinterested, or he’s not seeing the ball well. I’m also hoping all of this is what is contributing to him now being in the 32nd percentile in baseball for exit velocity.