39-year-old veteran falls in love, 29-year-old Korean big leaguer is Texas’ fall secret weapon

“I thought it was a sinker, but it was a cutter…”

Korean-American big leaguer Daein Dunning, 29, Texas Rangers, has returned to long relief in the postseason. He relieved starter Andrew Heaney in Game 1 of the 2023 Major League Baseball Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles, allowing one run on two hits (one home run) with one strikeout and one walk in two innings to earn the win.

At the time, Texas had a two-run lead in the top of the fourth inning. When Heaney faltered in the bottom of the fourth, the team had enough confidence in Dunning to bring him in immediately. That’s because Dunning was 12-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 35 games (26 starts) this season, his best performance since his major league debut in 2020. With Jacob deGrom out for the season due to Tommy John surgery, he has exceeded expectations as a starter.

According to Statcast, Dunning’s regular-season sinker averaged 91 mph. His velocity wasn’t great, and his command wasn’t perfect, with borderline and pinpoint pitches. He got a lot of help from his defense.

But Dunning somehow managed to eat up the innings, utilizing a mix of sinker, slider, cutter, and changeup. His curveball and four-seam were underutilized (4.7% and 3.2%, respectively), but it’s not like he didn’t throw them at all. Dunning’s aggressiveness in not running away was a huge boost to the Texas mound. Even though he’s out of the postseason lineup, he’s still an important pitcher.

In the bottom of the fourth inning of Game 1, Dunning got Adam Frazier to ground out to first base with runners on first and second on a cutter. In the fifth, he hit Ramon Urias with a body changeup and gave up an infield single, but then got Austin Hayes to ground out to third on a slider. He was lucky to get it up the middle. In the sixth, he gave up a solo shot to Anthony Santander in right-center but kept his changeup low and away.

MLB.com reported on Thursday what those around him had to say about the inning. Manager Bruce Bochy called him “the most valuable pitcher of the year,” and 39-year-old veteran Ian Kennedy said he was impressed with Dunning’s sinker-cutter combination. “You realize how good his stuff is. When he thinks he’s going to throw a sinker, he gets me excited, and then he throws a cutter. I can’t imagine going to the plate thinking the same thing.”

Dunning threw his cutter 11.8% of the time last year, but that number has risen to 20% this season. According to MLB.com, “Dunning lost his feel for his sinker to start the season and reverted to a cutter he rarely threw in 2022.” In other words, the cutter was a savior.

“I was inducing a lot of bad swings with my cutter,” Dunning said. I felt a lot more comfortable throwing the cutter. I wanted to have a unique pitch 바카라사이트 that I could throw at any time.” MLB.com said, “Dunning is dexterous and uses every weapon he can get his hands on.”

Texas begins the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros on April 16. Dunning’s performance will be a major concern.

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