Dane Dunning’s Emergence Key For White Sox’s Playoff Push, Bigger Goals

Dunning has a 2.70 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in four starts.

(670 The Score) Amid a breakout season in which they reside in first place in the AL Central at 27-16, the White Sox have bigger goals than just winning the division. They also want to make a deep postseason run and compete for a championship.

As it pertains to that vision, rookie right-hander Dane Dunning’s recent superb pitching has been a big development. On a team hit hard by injuries to pitchers and with question marks behind its one-two punch of Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, Dunning has emerged as the White Sox’s third-best starter and given them renewed hope in the American League playoffs, where the first round will feature a best-of-three format in the expanded 16-team postseason.

Dunning has moved up the ladder quickly. He lowered his ERA to 2.70 by throwing six scoreless innings in a win against the Pirates on Wednesday. It was just his fourth start of his MLB career, as he made his debut on Aug. 19. Dunning also has a 1.00 WHIP and has struck out 21 batters in 20 innings.

“We absolutely think so,” catcher James McCann said when asked about whether Dunning is the right addition to a potential playoff rotation. “He is going to be an integral part of our rotation this month and I assume for the next several years. He has proved every time he has taken the ball, he has given us a chance to win.”

The timing of Dunning’s emergence has worked well. The White Sox didn’t add pitching as the trade deadline passed on Aug. 31, preferring to hang on to their prospects in the unique 60-game season.

The truncated format has benefited Dunning in a way. He underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2019, and the White Sox are wary of giving him too big of a workload. In a normal 162-game structure, the White Sox would’ve had him on an innings limit that included rest periods built in.

In the short season, the front office is comfortable letting Dunning work as usual in the rotation without excessive innings becoming a factor.

"He is a confident young man, very poised,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has been thrust into a pennant race and is doing a very nice job. He has stabilized us.”

The White Sox will need Dunning to continue to be a stabilizing force. Keuchel has landed on the 10-day injured list with back spasms. That led them to promote right-hander Reynaldo Lopez from the alternate site in Schaumburg. Lopez has struggled this season, dealing with a shoulder injury and posting an 8.38 ERA in four starts.

Meanwhile, left-hander Carlos Rodon is working back into form but has had his return delayed by recent lower back issues. Before reporting to summer camp, right-hander Michael Kopech opted out of playing in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.