Dunning deals in White Sox's 6-2 win over Twins
After seeing the Tigers, the Royals twice and the Pirates in his first four major-league starts, Dane Dunning faced a much more difficult test when he took the mound against the Twins Tuesday night.
The White Sox rookie passed, and he made it look rather easy.
"It felt really good," Dunning said after the Sox beat Minnesota 6-2 at Guaranteed Rate Field, "It's a really good lineup and I was just trying to get us to the second half of the game where our relievers could come in and close it out."
With their sixth win in a row, the Sox (32-16) reduced their magic number to 2. They can clinch a playoff spot as early as Wednesday night against the Twins.
Dunning pitched a career-high 7 innings and allowed just 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits to go with 7 strikeouts. The 25-year-old righty threw 102 pitches.
"That's the first time I've thrown 100 pitches in probably two years," said Dunning, who missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. "Me and (catcher James) McCann, I thought we had a real good plan of attack and we just stuck to that plan. I feel comfortable right now. The debut, obviously the nerves were a little bit high, but after that I've been feeling pretty calm, pretty collected."
Luis Robert had a defensive misadventure in the third inning when he failed to make a catch at the fence and Byron Buxton circled the bases with an inside-the-park home run. Robert also incited laughter in the White Sox's dugout with an awkward slide on a steal of third base.
But the slumping rookie came through with a 2-run single in the third that put the Sox in front 4-1. McCann doubled, homered and had 2 RBI and American League batting leader Tim Anderson (.377) was 3-for-5 with a solo home run.
Right fielder Nomar Mazara has 2 hits in his last 19 at-bats, dropping his average to .223. Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion is in a 1-for-13 slide, dropping his average to .168.
Mazara and Encarnacion were both held out of the starting lineup Tuesday night.
"He's working very, very hard to try to get back in a groove," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said of Mazara, who is still looking for his first home run of the season. "We're just hoping he'll get to a point where he feels like he's in a rhythm and he's clicking, because when he clicks he's pretty good."
Encarnacion has 20 hits on the year and 8 are homers.
"I just want him to take a seat right now," Renteria said. "Eddie's a big part of us. He's someone to be feared."
Before Tuesday's game against the Twins, the Sox reinstated left-handed reliever Jace Fry (back spasms) from the 10-day injured list and optioned lefty Bernardo Flores Jr. to their Schaumburg training facility.
Fry pitched the eighth inning against Minnesota and struck out the side while issuing a one-out walk. He struck out Eddie Rosario leading off the ninth before calling it a night.
"It's fun to go out there and compete and try to get your job done for the team," Fry said. "It's completely opposite of what we've been. I come to the ballpark and expect to win, even against the best teams in the division or the league."