ANAHEIM, California (CBSNewsTexas.com) – The only postseason experience of Dane Dunning's career happened three years ago when he started the decisive game of the wild-card round for the White Sox, but got pulled after only four batters.
With his Texas Rangers close to securing their own playoff return, Dunning was a bit more nervous than usual when he took the mound Wednesday night.
And then Dunning demonstrated why he might be one of the Rangers' best options in October.
Dunning yielded three hits over seven dominant innings, Adolis García had a homer and an RBI double, and Texas moved to the brink of its first playoff berth since 2016 with a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.
Evan Carter hit a two-run homer and Marcus Semien added a solo shot in the ninth inning for the Rangers, who have won seven of eight. They've also set the stage to wrap up both a postseason spot and their first AL West title in seven years when they finish the regular season with four consecutive games in Seattle. Houston is 2 1/2 games behind Texas in the division standings, and the Mariners are four games back.
"I haven't been thinking about it as much as trying to win the next game," Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. "We'll be out there tomorrow trying to win that game."
Dunning (12-6) remained unbeaten since Aug. 25 and shook off memories of shaky recent starts by throttling the Angels. The right-hander walked one and struck out seven in his longest appearance in his last eight starts.
"I try to focus on every outing the same, (but) I was a little nervous at the beginning," Dunning said. "Yesterday we didn't play our best baseball, and this potentially being my last start of the regular season, I just wanted to put my best foot forward."
Dunning did just that, and the Rangers also got good injury news: AL batting leader Corey Seager had two hits after leaving Tuesday's game early because he was hit by a pitch in the left forearm.
Griffin Canning (7-8) pitched six innings of five-hit ball with five strikeouts in the final start of his decent rebound year with the Angels, who have lost 11 of 14 in the final week of their eighth consecutive losing season and ninth consecutive non-playoff season.
Canning missed the second half of the 2021 season and all of 2022 with a back injury, but manager Phil Nevin was impressed with his pitcher's resilience. Nevin left Canning in the game after a mound visit in the sixth, forcing reliever Andrew Wantz to retreat to the bullpen, and Canning finished the inning.
"He's tough, and he showed that this year," Nevin said. "Coming off a year of zero (innings) and really not much the year before, he was excited about that. He wanted that last out. He earned it."
Semien opened the game with a single and eventually scored on García's two-out double to left. García then drove his career-best 38th homer to center in the third for his career-high 106th RBI.
Carter, who made his big league debut Sept. 8, hit his fifth homer already this month off struggling All-Star closer Carlos Estévez. Semien followed with his 29th homer of the season, driving in his 99th run.
Shohei Ohtani isn't with the Angels as he recovers from elbow surgery, and the probable two-time AL MVP already cleaned out his locker at Angel Stadium ahead of free agency. Nevin said he still expects Ohtani to be in Anaheim this weekend to cheer on his teammates in the Angels' final series. Nevin has spoken to Ohtani's interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, who confirmed Ohtani's plan hasn't changed.
Angels right-hander Kelvin Caceres made his major league debut in the ninth inning, throwing his first pitch to the backstop and walking Nathaniel Lowe before retiring García on a flyout to the track. Caceres, who began the year in the High-A minors, is the 66th player to appear in a game for Los Angeles this season, matching the franchise record set last year.
Rangers: RHP Max Scherzer threw a light bullpen session. He went on the injured list with a strained right shoulder two weeks ago, but the Rangers haven't ruled him out for the playoffs. ... RHP Josh Sborz returned from a stint on the 15-day injured list with a hamstring strain. LHP Jake Latz was optioned.
Angels: Nolan Schanuel was held out after fouling a ball off his leg Tuesday. Nevin was noncommittal on the plan for the rest of the week for his rookie first baseman, who has reached base in his first 27 consecutive games. ... OF Mickey Moniak is doing baseball activities and is nearly ready to return from his back injury, but Nevin isn't sure whether he'll play in the final three games.
Rangers: Jordan Montgomery (10-11, 3.25 ERA) is likely to start Thursday in Seattle.
Angels: After a day off, Chase Silseth (4-1, 4.10 ERA) takes the Anaheim mound Friday night against Oakland.
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