ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Adolis García keeps driving in runs for the Texas Rangers, and the two guys filling in for the AL West leaders' injured stars keep contributing as well.
Dane Dunning was solid again while pitching in the rotation spot of injured ace Jacob deGrom, and fill-in shortstop Ezequiel Duran homered — after García extended his MLB-best RBI total to 44 with a two-run shot — as the Rangers beat the Atlanta Braves 7-4 in a matchup of division leaders Tuesday night.
Dunning (4-0) allowed one run over six innings in his third start since deGrom went on the injured list April 29 because of elbow inflammation. The right-hander has won two of those games, and his other two wins came in games when he took over after deGrom exited early because of injury concerns.
“I’m just trying to be the best Swiss Army knife that I can,” Dunning said. “It's just whatever role they want me to do. I’m just going to try to fill that spot and do the best that I can."
Dunning had four strikeouts without a walk while throwing 60 of 92 pitches for strikes on the same day that deGrom, the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, threw off a mound for the first time since going on the IL.
“Dane just has so much value wherever you put him, starting or relieving, and good for him, because he’s been relentless since spring training,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I can’t tell you what going to happen ... we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Duran got at least another game starting at shortstop when Corey Seager's return from the IL was delayed because of a stomach bug, Seager, who hasn't played since straining his hamstring running the bases on April 11, wrapped up a three-game rehab assignment at Double-A Frisco over the weekend.
Seager could return for the series finale Wednesday. But that doesn't mean Duran suddenly will quit playing. His sixth homer was a solo shot in the eighth, right after Atlanta scored three times in the top of the inning.
“He just has a really good knack of getting the barrel on the ball. That’s a big run at that point,” Bochy said. “He'll still be getting a lot of playing time.”
Ronald Acuña Jr. homered for the third game in a row for the NL East-leading Braves (26-16), who lost for the fifth time in the past six games. They still have a five-game lead over second-place Miami in the division.
After a 12-0 loss to the Braves in the series opener, AL West leader Texas (26-16) got its eighth win in the last 11 games after Will Smith pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save.
Left-hander Jared Shuster (0-2), Atlanta's top pitching prospected recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to make the start, didn't allow a hit until Robbie Grossman's leadoff single in the fourth. Nathaniel Lowe then drove him home with a double before García's 11th homer, a 365-foot liner over the right-field wall that made it 3-1.
“Just came undone there in that one inning, in the beginning. But overall, it was a lot better,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “If you would have told me we’re going to get five innings out of him, I would have said that’ll be great.”
Jonah Heim drove in a run and extended his career-long hitting streak to 14 games, the longest active in the majors, with a single in the sixth. Marcus Semien and Grossman had back-to-back RBI singles in the seventh.
Acuña's 10th homer of the season was a 455-foot drive to straightaway center leading off the eighth against Jonathan Hernandez. The second Rangers reliever then hit Matt Olson with a pitch before Sean Murphy followed with his 10th homer to get Atlanta within 6-4.
Braves: LHP Lucas Luetge, out since mid-April because of left biceps inflammation, was sent to Double-A Mississippi to began a rehab assignment.
Rangers: There still is no timetable for deGrom's return. The Rangers are waiting to see how he feels from the light side session before determining his next step.
Rangers right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (5-2), whose career-long scoreless streak of 28 2/3 innings in the longest active in the majors, starts the rubber game Wednesday night. Braves right-hander Spencer Strider (4-1, 2.51) has at least 10 strikeouts in three of his last four starts.