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Momentum swings with Dunn's bat

CHICAGO -- At the tail end of his 12th season in the major leagues, Adam Dunn has piled up a lot of individual statistics, but not a lot of wins.

In his career, Dunn has picked up 1,419 hits, 2,016 strikeouts, 1,165 walks, enough swings to be considered the largest producer of wind-powered energy in the United States, enough clubhouse steaks eaten to feed the carnivores at Gibson's for a decade.

But perhaps for all the swings he has taken, none was bigger than the one that resulted in his career home run No. 406 on Monday night. It was a game-winner and, just maybe, a season-saver.

Dunn's three-run homer -- his second home run of the game and 41st of the season -- off Vinnie Pestano in the eighth inning gave the Chicago White Sox a come-from-behind lead in an eventual 5-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians. The win ended a five-game skid and kept the Sox atop the AL Central by one game over the Detroit Tigers, which beat Kansas City earlier in the night.

Brett Myers got the win, Donnie Veal the save, while Kevin Youkilis and Dan Johnson played key roles. Just like they drew it up in spring training, right?

Regardless of how it happened, it's another night in first place for the Sox, who teeter between baseball immortality and irrelevance every night.

"It's good for today," manager Robin Ventura said.

Don't get too excited Robin, you still have nine more of these to go. Not to mention the divisional series, the championship series and the World Series. OK, maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves.

If the Sox can't build off this win and Detroit overtakes them, no one besides family and the meager 20,206 in attendance will remember Dunn's 41st.

But if the Sox hold serve over the next nine games and win the division, the Adam Dunn Game will hold some extra meaning for him. After all, Dunn has never been to the playoffs. In a city used to championship droughts, he's a perfect guy to break one.

"It's fun," Dunn said. "It's not important. It's fun. It's baseball. I don't look at it as being important or this and that. This is your job. Of course, everyone wants to get to the postseason. It's just fun right now, where every single game matters. I think a lot of times you put a lot of pressure on yourself. You've got to take a step back every once in a while and realize it's baseball and it's fun."

Before the game, Dunn admitted the stumbling White Sox were trying a little too hard to be heroes during their losing streak.

"A lot of people want to do so well and they are trying so hard, me included, that you stink," Dunn said. "This game, you can't try so hard in this game because if you start doing that, you are going to try to do stuff you are not capable of doing. It just doesn't work that way."

He should know about trying and whiffing. Last year, Dunn put together likely the worst season for a hitter in major league history, hitting .159 with 11 homers in 122 games.

Dunn struck out in his first two at-bats Monday (Nos. 206 and 207 of the season, extending his single-season franchise record) against Indians starter Zach McAllister. He wasn't alone. McAllister struck out seven and his replacement Joe Smith struck out the side in the seventh.

All season there have been moments when it seemed like the Sox were destined to fade away, the team no one picked to matter finding their true level. And then something happens to keep them alive.

On Sunday, it was the Tigers dropping a doubleheader to the Twins after the Sox got swept by the Angels.

"We were like, 'Man, if we would've just won two of those games in Anaheim, we'd be looking good right now,' " Dewayne Wise said before Monday's game.

On Monday it was the eighth inning. With one out, pinch-hitter Dan Johnson walked and was taken out for pinch-runner Jordan Danks, who went to second on a groundout. Kevin Youkilis then singled off newly inserted third baseman Jack Hannahan's glove to set up Dunn's homer, which came on an 0-2 fastball.

Dunn admitted that might've been the biggest homer of his career. Certainly it was his biggest in a Sox uniform.

"I think that last one was," Dunn said. "We're struggling to score runs. That guy [Pestano] is tough. I haven't been seeing the ball real good and he left the ball over. It's one I've been swinging and missing at for over a week now."

Before his 436-foot homer to dead center in the sixth, Dunn had been in a 2-for-21 slide over his past six games. Not coincidentally, the Sox had a bad 4-5 road trip, losing two to Kansas City and three straight in Anaheim. They hadn't scored more than three runs in their past six games.

Still, if tension were in the home clubhouse air before the game, it was punctured by flying Nerf footballs. The Sox seemed loose before the start of their seven-game homestand to end the home part of the regular season. Youkilis even did his best impression of brother-in-law Tom Brady.

Ventura smiled and joked with players and reporters, consoling Youkilis about losing a chance to play for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic and hugging a beat writer on his way to his dugout news conference. While the Sox tried to relax before the game, it was obvious the team was pressing individually at the plate.

"It's easier said than done," Ventura said. "You can say relax and everything else, but when you're the one at the plate, it becomes different. Hopefully that changes, but I understand it. It's one of those where everybody wants to do well. You want to be the guy knocking guys in, you want to be that person. But they're the ones that need to relax."

The Sox didn't look relaxed as McAllister plowed through the lineup. And when the Sox did something right, they didn't get the call. Trailing 1-0, Alejandro De Aza was called out sliding at home on Youkilis' double in the fourth inning. TV replays showed he was safe. The Sox tied it in the fifth, but starter Chris Sale gave up a two-run homer in the sixth.

The De Aza call was one that should've sent announcer Hawk Harrelson to the looney bin. But in the end, it didn't matter.

For one night, the Sox made their own breaks.