Most notably a slugger, Adam Dunn can also be a hitter, and presently the White Sox’s DH has been both.
The reasons Dunn could command a four-year, $56 million contract over the offseason have rarely been on display this season, but during the just-completed series against the Angels, he gave a virtuoso performance.
Dunn’s slugging persona was at it Wednesday against Angels rookie Tyler Chatwood when his 1-iron into the seats in right field left the park in such a hurry that right fielder Torii Hunter barely had a chance to move, not that he needed to.
But Dunn isn’t all grunt and muscle as his track record would seem to suggest. He has a keen eye for the strike zone (his home run Wednesday came on a 3-2 pitch) and he can go the other way as well, even though those right-side heavy defensive shifts seem to suggest otherwise.
The sure sign Dunn is a different hitter now came with his first-inning single to left field and his 10th inning double to left on Wednesday. When Dunn was deep into his struggles following his appendectomy, he could barely even foul off pitches much less direct the ones on the outside part of the plate to the opposite field.
“I feel good,” Dunn said. “The difference between when I’m doing good and not doing good is I’m taking pitches I should be hitting or I’m fouling them off. [On Wednesday] I don’t think I took any pitches that I felt like I could have really done some damage on.”
Dunn is in what can be called pick-your-poison time. Inside pitches like the one Chatwood offered can be jerked into the seats in right. But showing he isn’t greedy, Dunn is willing to work with those he can’t drive as far.
Those have the potential to do just as much damage. Dunn’s 10th inning double moved Alexei Ramirez to third, setting up the go-ahead run that came moments later when Kevin Jepsen uncorked a wild pitch white trying to intentionally walk Paul Konerko. Dunn then scored an insurance run on a sacrifice fly.
That Dunn has risen while the offense has finally emerged is no coincidence. The final numbers from his breakout series against the Angels were a .583 batting average (7-for-12) with three doubles and three runs scored. His four-hit night Wednesday matched a career high, the fourth time he has accomplished the feat, but only the first since 2006.
In one game, Dunn raised his batting average from .184 to .213. His slugging percentage went from .330 to .389 and his on-base percentage leapt from .325 to .348.
Now more than ever, the Dunn-Konerko effect will start to take shape. When the three-game series starts in Oakland on Friday, A’s pitchers are sure to have a revised scouting report on how to handle the red-hot Dunn.
But their options aren’t so simple. Pitch him in and Dunn could go deep. Pitch away and watch him flip a single to left. Pitch around him and that leaves you having to face Konerko with a runner on base.
Behind them leads to the lion resting in the tall weeds in Carlos Quentin and even further still is the also-emerging A.J. Pierzynski, who credited minor mechanical adjustments for his four-hit night Wednesday and a .500 batting average (7-for-14) in the series.
“I think Dunn a little by little is starting to help us,” Guillen said. “He’s getting big hits for us. When this guy gets on base, you have [Konerko] and Quentin swing the bat pretty good. That’s a plus. We need that guy to do what he’s doing right now and make it easy for the pitcher just in case they make mistakes.”
Finally it’s the dynamic everybody has been waiting for, some more patently than others. How long it lasts is the question. Dunn makes no promises, he just wants to enjoy his first torrid run as long as he can.
“You know, if I would have started off hot as could be, I would have said, ‘Relax, there will be some rough spots coming through here,’” Dunn said. “It’s how I am. I wish I was a lot more consistent player, but I’ve got to ride the streaks when they are good.”