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White Sox Mon May 14 2012

Adam Dunn: Story of a Night

The White Sox didn't do so well against the fourth place Royals this weekend, dropping the final two games by a combined 13 runs. The Sox played well in the opener though, and the top offensive performer in the victory was a now not-unlikely name: Adam Dunn.

Much has been written about the slugger's resurgence. Perhaps the best indicator that Dunn's hot streak is for real is that he's keeping it up. Usually, once you notice that a player is tearing it up, he quickly returns back to earth. Not in this case, though.

In Friday night's 5-0 win over Kansas City, Dunn had one of his finest games of the season. Not only was his power evident and his OBP at 1.000, he even broke his season-long strikeout streak.

Just how did Dunn do it? Let's look at it at-bat by at-bat.

1st at-bat: Bottom 1st, 2 outs. No one on. 0-0 score. With the sun setting at the Cell, Dunn strolls to the plate to face Royals starting pitcher Felipe Paulino. For his career, Dunn is 2-for-8 against the KC righty, with a homer. Without too much of a history, we don't know what to expect from the matchup.

After missing on a fastball outside, Paulino blows two more fastballs by a swinging Dunn. Each pitch hits 95 on the gun. After stepping out of the box, Dunn fouls off a low 96 MPH two-seamer.

For the second 1-2 pitch, Royals catcher Humberto Quintero moves inside on the lefty batter, calling for a ball high and in. Paulino's offering, though, is middle-in. Dunn crushes it. He sees the 97 MPH fastball (feel free to mix it up, Felipe) all the way, and unleashes one of the most powerful swings I've ever seen from Dunn. It's a no-doubter, eight or nine rows into the seats past the visiting dugout.

It's a fantastic at-bat for Dunn. Though he looked late on the first two pitches, he started his swing just a little earlier for the foul ball, then a little earlier still for the home run. This long shot was no accident.

2nd at-bat: Bottom 3rd, 2 outs. Gordon Beckham on first. 2-0, White Sox. Dunn steps in as the Sox fifth batter of the inning, trying to maintain a two-out rally that saw Alejandro De Aza single and steal second, then Gordon Beckham bring De Aza in on a single up the middle.

Being aggressive, Dunn swings at the first pitch, a curveball, and fouls it off to the left. He then gets blown away by another heater (95 MPH) outside. Paulino's 0-2 is a weak slider in the dirt that Dunn lays off of.

For the 1-2, Quintero sets up way off the plate, his outside foot in the center of the righty batter's box. Yet Paulino again misses, and his slider is low and over the plate. Dunn sees it and wallops it down the right field line that skips over the fence for a ground rule double. Beckham stays at third.

Dunn has another nice swing on the slider, not reaching too much and bending the knees slightly to squarely hit the ball. This could have easily been a golf-swing pop up or a topped ground ball. Instead, it's a cleanly hit double that just stays fair. Unfortunately for Dunn, it goes out of play; if the ball hits the wall and stays in the park, Dunn still gets to second but Beckham scores. The next batter, Paul Konerko, flies out to a diving Alex Gordon to end the inning.

3rd at-bat: Bottom 6th, 0 outs. Beckham on second. 2-0, White Sox. Given the situation, and given the batter, Paulino is expected to pitch around Dunn to some degree. Sure enough, the pitcher starts Dunn off 3-0, working him away with more fastballs.

But on 3-0, Dunn gets the green light to swing, fouling off another outside fastball. It's refreshing that manager Robin Ventura is letting Dunn do what he wants at the plate. The Sox manager has confidence in his slugger, and that certainly has helped Dunn's psyche.

Paulino gives Dunn another fastball, this one over the plate, which Dunn whiffs at. On the full count pitch, Paulino goes with a fastball low and in and walks his batter. Dunn, for all we know, may have been fooled on an overdue inside pitch, but nevertheless he never flinches at the ball out of the zone and takes a walk. Although Dunn is retired on a fielder's choice, the White Sox score two runs and increase their lead.

4th at-bat: Bottom 7th, 2 outs. De Aza on third. 5-0, White Sox. This is yet another situation where Kansas City is fine with a walk. However, reliever Tim Collins is in to pitch, giving the Royals a favorable lefty-lefty matchup. Since Dunn is batting .097 with no homers versus lefthanders this season, Kansas City could easily go after him here.

Since Collins does not have the same velocity that Paulino has (topping out at 94), he offers Dunn something he hasn't really seen much on the night: off-speed pitches. Collins starts off with a fastball low and away for a ball, then goes with a dangerous changeup over the middle of the plate that Dunn swings through. After nibbling the zone with two balls away, the pitcher again gets the hitter off balance with a changeup in. Seeing that Dunn isn't timing the changeup well, Collins again goes with the pitch, but it's high and outside for another walk.

The Sox held off the Royals over the last two innings and won the game 5-0. Dunn had a plate appearance in each inning Chicago scored, and he directly contributed to one run, set up two runners in scoring position in another, and maintained rallies with walks in the last two.

Dunn really didn't have a bad swing all night, but he did have two great swings. He saw the ball well, and never decided to swing at a bad pitch. It was a great game for the first-baseman-slash-designated-hitter, with four strong plate appearances.

Adam Dunn is back to being an offensive force, already matching his home run total (11) from last season. Look for him to continue being a factor at the plate for the rest of the season.

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