CHICAGO – Adam Dunn waited 12 years for this moment.
The postseason used to exist as a figment of his imagination. As the White Sox stood four outs away from falling into a first-place tie with the Detroit Tigers, Dunn might have saved the Sox’s season.
Behind in the count 0-2 against Cleveland reliever Vinnie Pestano – what would have been an automatic out last year – Dunn clubbed his second home run of the game, a three-run homer that just cleared the right-center field fence. It catapulted the Sox to a two-run lead, and the bullpen held off the Indians in the ninth for a 5-4 comeback win to snap a five-game losing streak.
Dunn’s 41st home run of the season set off a celebration at U.S. Cellular Field, and none was more
relieved than his teammates.
“At that point and time, I wish you could just call upon on a ghost runner,” Dunn said. “You just want to hurry and get in the dugout because I know everyone is as excited as you are.”
Based on Dunn’s first two at-bats, home runs were the last thing anyone should have expected. He struck out twice and neither at-bats were encouraging. But one perk of being the designated hitter is extra time between at-bats. Dunn decided he needed to watch video with hitting coach Jeff Manto and break down his first two at-bats.
The extra work certainly didn’t hurt.
“We went in and kind of made some adjustments,” Dunn said. “I felt good that at-bat. I got pitches to hit. Fouled them off and things like that. That was more of an angry
swing [on the first homer].”
Completely in control of their postseason fate, at one point holding a three-game lead with 15 games to go, the Sox (82-71) were on the verge of throwing away sole possession of first in the AL Central – a spot they’ve held since July 24. Nothing was going the way it was scripted against the hapless Indians (63-91) as the Sox’s offense managed just four hits off the latest no-name pitcher they faced, right-hander Zach McAllister.
A mediocre performance by starter Chris Sale – by his standards, at least – gave the Sox a chance after he lasted seven innings despite allowing three runs on 10 hits.
“We’ve had some pretty good wins,” Sale said. “Pulling that out was huge. Tonight was Dunner’s night. He won the game for us, hands down.”
The Sox refuse to make it easy on themselves. But Dunn readily carried the team on his shoulders when the game was headed for a brutal loss. His two home runs pushed him over the 40-homer milestone for the sixth time in his career. He also became the sixth Sox player to hit at least 40 home runs, joining Albert Belle, Jermaine Dye, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome and Paul Konerko.
Dunn didn’t hesitate labeling his game-winning homer the biggest of the 406 he has hit during his career. And if the Sox expect to fend off the Tigers for the division crown, the South Siders need more of Monday’s version of Dunn instead of the slugger who entered the game in a 2 for 21 rut. Dunn hit more home runs in Monday’s game and drove in more runs (four) than he had in his previous 19 games (one home run with three RBIs).
The pressure will only continue to build with nine regular games remaining. Bring it on, says Dunn.
“I feel like I’ve had [to carry the team] since I was probably since I was 10 years old,” Dunn said. “When you’re always one of the better players coming up you – I’m not trying to be cocky or conceited – everybody in here at one point or another has been looked upon to carry a team. If I’m swinging the bat like I’m capable of, yeah I’ll take it.”