Who needs trades? Dunning has been Sox second-half splash originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The White Sox didn’t go out and add starting pitching at the trade deadline.
Opting to instead preserve their carefully laid long-term rebuilding plans, the White Sox rolled with what they had, even though they were finally where the rebuild was intended to put them: in the realm of baseball’s contenders. And what do contenders usually do at the deadline? They deal.
It’s almost an expectation, and it left fans wanting that the White Sox decided against any big additions. And perhaps fans weren’t the only ones expecting such a move.
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“In any case, guys would like to see a trade come through, especially when there’s a lot of trades,” starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel said the day after the deadline. “But at the same time, do you sacrifice the future of this team, this group of guys, for a win now? Or do you roll with the team we have? … We’ve got a couple options moving forward, and right now we’re in the thick of things for first place. So I think what we have right now, we can definitely win with. We’ll see.”
But it turns out the White Sox did get the impactful midseason addition the trade deadline normally brings. And he might just be their No. 3 starter in the playoffs next month.
Dane Dunning has been sensational since making his major league debut on Aug. 19. Eleven days later, he was brought back up for his second big league start. That was a day before the deadline. And ever since, he’s been the kind of splash so many were looking for Rick Hahn & Co. to make.
In fact, the White Sox haven’t lost with him on the mound.
“His efficiency has been pretty good. He’s attacking the strike zone. He has good stuff. He’s very composed out there,” manager Rick Renteria said Wednesday night. “His makeup is not going to change. He has a very solid presence of mind when he’s on the mound.
“He’s at the big league level, and he’s performing very well. He’s executing. He’s giving himself a chance, and he’s giving us a chance.”
Dunning spun another beauty in the most important outing of his career to date. It was just his fifth game in the majors, but already he’s showing he can be the kind of reliable arm the White Sox need past Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel at the top of the starting rotation.
He allowed just two runs on three hits and a couple of walks, striking out seven Minnesota Twins as he led the White Sox to a 6-2 win Tuesday night, giving them victories in each of the first two games of this important four-game set with their division rivals. The win sent their lead in the AL Central standings to three games and set up a potential playoff-clinching Wednesday.
But his emergence might be an even bigger win for a White Sox team that was steaming toward October with the best offense in the American League but a pitching staff that had question marks behind the top two guys. Give credit where it’s due, the White Sox starting staff has put up some very good numbers this season, and their starters’ 3.23 ERA is the third best mark in baseball. But it remained a mystery what they’d be able to get out of Dylan Cease, Carlos Rodón or Reynaldo López in a playoff series. And it still does.
Dunning, though, has shown he might be the best option for Renteria to turn to after Giolito and Keuchel. He shut down the playoff-bound Twins on Tuesday night, helping the White Sox prove they are capable of beating good teams, the only kind they’ll face in postseason play.
With playoff-style baseball coming to the South Side for the first time in a long time, Dunning answered the bell. In fact, he made things far less playoff-y than they were a night earlier. By shutting the Twins down so effectively, the White Sox felt in control from start to finish.
That’s the kind of performance you crave in a playoff game. And Dunning looks capable of delivering it.
“It all boils down to his composure,” catcher James McCann said. “It’s his fifth career start tonight, if I’m right. That’s a playoff-type atmosphere, that’s a heck of a lineup he went up against.
“He didn’t have his best command that I’ve seen from him, yet I think this is the deepest he went into a game yet. It’s his composure and his ability to make adjustments on the fly that has been so fun to be a part of.
“It’s a tough task. He doesn’t have the experience to lean on in big moments. And he’s done a heck of a job of stepping up and getting through those big moments, and I couldn’t be more proud of how he’s come out there each time.”
Despite the solid numbers, the White Sox biggest need at the trade deadline was some reinforcement at the back end of their rotation. Dunning didn’t come in via trade, but he’s filled that need. While rumors flew involving Mike Clevinger and Lance Lynn and other starting pitchers of lesser but certainly serviceable caliber, the White Sox didn’t end up with any of them.
They still got what they needed, and they’ve gotten it from Dunning. And now, with the playoffs fast approaching, they’ve got a reliable arm to turn to.
Game 3, anyone?
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Will Nick Foles be special for Chicago Bears?
With two minutes remaining and his Chicago Bears trailing Atlanta by three, Nick Foles lined up at the Falcons’ 28-yard line and read an all-out blitz coming. He immediately audibled to deal with the coming pressure — Atlanta would indeed rush six.
Only there was a twist. Just prior to the play, during the two-minute warning timeout, Foles had told receiver Anthony Miller that if a checkout came, Miller should run a simple route.
“Get to the ‘L’,” Foles said, meaning the “L” in “ATL” painted in the Falcons’ end zone. The pass would arrive there.
“And it’ll be a pretty stiff ball,” Foles warned.
Miller did as he was told, running a designed-on-the-fly backyard-football route. As he arrived at the L, so did the ball, launched by Foles just a fraction of a second before he was buried by linebacker Mykal Walker.
Miller caught it, Chicago took a 30-26 lead it wouldn’t relinquish and the Legend of Nick Foles got itself another chapter.
“That’s a fun way to win a game,” Foles said.
Foles will start Sunday against Indianapolis, according to coach Matt Nagy, which will make Chicago the fifth NFL team he’s started a game for, and that includes two stints in Philadelphia. He relieved a struggling Mitchell Trubisky in the third quarter against Atlanta and promptly turned a 23-10 hole into a Chicago victory, bringing the Bears to an unlikely 3-0 on the season.
The Trubisky benching was both deserved and also lightning quick, which suggests Nagy may have been eager to move on from the former No. 2 overall pick despite winning the season’s first two games. Foles was probably always the inevitable plan this year. That they got to him while remaining undefeated is a bonus.
Now the question is: What do Foles and Chicago do with it?
There are few NFL careers more confounding than the one Foles is rolling through. He was named Super Bowl MVP after outdueling Tom Brady in Philly’s classic upset three seasons ago in a game where he delivered 373 yards and three touchdown passes and one “Philly Special” touchdown receiving.
He made a Pro Bowl in 2013, throwing seven scores in one game that season, and he routinely pulls off plays like “Get to the ‘L’” that you’d expect from Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers.
Yet across nine seasons with five teams (Philly, Kansas City, St. Louis, Jacksonville and Chicago) he’s never been able to seize control of a starting job, either because of inaccuracy, turnovers or injuries. For every burst of magic, there is the return to the mean that suggests he’s nothing more than a very capable back-up. Teams tend to want him, then not so much. He’s been traded three times, always as part of some mid-to-late-round draft swaps.
After the 2015 season in St. Louis, where he completed just 56.4 percent of his passes and threw more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (7), he strongly considered retiring and finding a new profession.
Football was no longer fun. It certainly had never been easy. He played high school ball in Texas but the local schools showed little interest. He went to Michigan State but couldn’t crack the lineup. He transferred to Arizona and wound up drafted in the third round. Now, though, he was just a bad QB with no guarantees for the future.
He went fishing, prayed on it and decided to give it another crack. A year in Kansas City led to a return to Philly and that improbable Super Bowl playoff run.
Since then, though, he has lost starting QB battles to Carson Wentz, Gardner Minshew and, just a month ago, Trubisky.
So which is the real Nick Foles, as he returns with another golden opportunity to show the league that he is more than just its most famous mop-up guy? When you start 3-0 — no matter how you start 3-0 — you have an inside track on the playoffs, especially as they’ve expanded this season. Chicago should be thinking big.
Foles will have to be a lot better than he was against Atlanta. Winning tends to smooth everything over, but he was just 16 of 29 for 188 yards. There were three touchdowns, against one pick, and that brilliant audible that comes from Foles’ deep confidence, but the warning light should still be flashing.
Foles’ accuracy has long been a problem — a career 61.8 completion percentage. So has his touchdowns-to-interception ratio — 74 to 36. He tends to get banged up often and struggles once defensive coordinators can plan for him.
Still, he’s the kind of guy who subs in and switches the offense on the biggest play of the game. He’s the back-up who spent the fourth quarter walking up and down the Bears sideline reminding everyone that the comeback was possible (and his teammates believed him).
“It’s one play at a time …” Foles said after.
That’s Nick Foles at his best, always believing even in the face of doubt, deficits and a blitz. And so now comes one more time for an opportunity to prove he is more than a guy who is so great when little is expected, only to be so befuddling when a lot is.
In his sixth starting stint with his fifth team, can Nick Foles be special in Chicago?
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Offensive line once again dominates the Browns’ top PFF grades
It’s becoming a weekly theme for the Cleveland Browns. The Pro Football Focus grades for the team’s 34-20 win over Washington in Week 3 reflect very highly on the Cleveland offensive line, just as they did in the first two weeks.
Three of the Browns’ top four offensive grades from PFF in Week 3 went to offensive linemen.
Only WR Odell Beckham Jr. worked his way into the top foursome, scoring a season-high 76.6 in the game. Fellow wideout Jarvis Landry rounds out the top five with a 73.0 grade.
On defense, Myles Garrett’s dominant performance shot to the top of the PFF scores. Garrett earned a 91.0 overall grade and a 91.4 pass rush grade.
Linebacker B.J. Goodson parlayed his best game in a Browns uniform into a strong 84.4 overall grade. Most of that came from a 90.8 mark in coverage that was helped by an interception. CB Kevin Johnson, in his Browns debut, was the only other Cleveland defender to top the 70.0 overall mark.
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