CHICAGO -- Following Adam Dunn's second at-bat on Monday, he ducked back into the Chicago White Sox clubhouse and began reviewing video of his evening’s first two plate appearances against the Cleveland Indians.
Dunn had struck out swinging on both chances, and he sensed something was off. Hitting coach Jeff Manto soon joined him, and they discussed what could be changed before Dunn’s next at-bat.
“I don’t really know how to describe it,” Dunn said of what he saw on the video. “It’s more of a feel for me. He kind of asks me what I’m feeling, and I tell him. ‘OK, let’s try this drill and see if we can get it back.’”
Dunn was unsure specifically what he altered from his second at-bat to his third and fourth ones, but the designated hitter undoubtedly knew it worked.
First, Dunn clobbered a 400-foot-plus solo blast in the sixth inning.
His next at-bat came in the eighth inning, and this one was full of drama. The White Sox trailed by a run. They had two runners on base. Dunn picked up two quick strikes. And then on a fastball, Dunn connected with what he would later describe as the most significant home run of his career, bringing three runs across the plate and delivering a 5-4 win to keep the White Sox one game ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central with nine games remaining.
“The last homer, that probably was the most important so far in my career,” said Dunn, who has never played in the playoffs. “That was a win we needed.”
It was win the White Sox needed, but it was also a boost their offense and Dunn required. The White Sox hadn’t scored more than three runs in the previous six games, and Dunn was a factor in those struggles. He hadn’t had an RBI since Sept. 16.
Dunn’s confidence never faltered when Monday came around, though. When his time came in that eighth inning, he was excited about the possibility of being the hero and also felt it was what was expected of him.
“Yeah, I feel like I've had [the duty to carry the team on my shoulders] since I was probably since I was 10 years old,” said Dunn, who now has 41 home runs on the season. “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.
“Again, this kind of situation we again have been struggling to score runs. Just with [Kevin Youkilis] getting that base hit [in the eighth], it's a spot you want to be as a hitter. People look at it as pressure or this and that, but to me, I love being in that situation. Obviously, they're a lot tougher than other situations, but sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't.”
Dunn got it, and his first thought when he started running bases was to get off the bases as fast as he could. He wanted to share the moment with 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 you know everyone is as excited as you are.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura was certainly pleased to greet Dunn when he finally reached the dugout.
“Knowing the situation and everything that goes with it, both at-bats were pretty big,” Ventura said. “There were a lot of guys with big at-bats, but his, because he hit the home runs, you’re going to look at that.”