Offense arrives, but will it stay?
May, 15, 2013
By Doug Padilla | ESPNChicago.com
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesAdam Dunn showed signs of life with three homers in the past two games against the Twins.The Chicago White Sox finally appear to be strong and vibrant, and it is only partially rooted in the recovery from previous tough-luck injuries.
Struggling on offense for the first six weeks of the season, the heart of the order seems to have finally found an approach worth repeating and it isn't just one guy doing all the work.
Adam Dunn has shown the most dramatic improvement with a slightly altered swing that comes from holding his hands higher during his setup. The new look appears to be letting him sit back on pitches just a hair while then driving them to the opposite field.
Dunn hit three home runs in the just-concluded series against the Minnesota Twins, two of them in a 9-4 victory in Wednesday's series finale, and none of the three home runs were to the right side of the field.
Alex Rios is also using all fields and looks to be confident at the plate. He hit a low line drive so hard Wednesday that screamed over the head of Twins second baseman Jamey Carroll and rolled into the gap and all the way to the wall for a triple.
The 50th triple of Rios' career was his first of three hits on the day and extended his hit streak to 10 games. Rios is batting .390 (16-for-41) over that stretch with nine runs scored as he has raised his overall batting average to .293 and his slugging percentage to .524.
Just outside the heart of the order is where Dayan Viciedo is getting back into a groove. The power hitter, who just came off the disabled list Friday because of a strained left oblique, hit a home run for the second consecutive day and has a hit in five of the six games since his return.
Viciedo was doing his damage out of the No. 7 spot in the order on Wednesday and right in front of him was Conor Gillaspie, who delivered two of his own hits and also scored a run.
The surprise is that the team's first serious offensive uprising of the season is coming with little to no help from veteran Paul Konerko. The captain didn't even play in the first two games of the series as manager Robin Ventura elected to give his team leader a pair of days to clear his mind. Konerko did have a single and a walk in five trips to the plate Wednesday.
Offense from Rios, Viciedo and even Gillaspie is nice, but the current resurgence has been led by Dunn, who looked lost at the plate as recently as last weekend against the Los Angeles Angels. Dunn wasn't even in the lineup for Sunday's nationally-televised game at home.
It didn't take long to turn things around and a little work with hitting coach Jeff Manto did the trick. Holding his hands higher at setup has not only helped his timing, it mimics what Dunn had been doing during previous offensive outbursts earlier in his career.
By making solid contact, Dunn was able to muscle balls over the wall in center and left-center field during the series. He would have had a fourth home run this week, but he was robbed by Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks on Monday.
Perhaps most impressive of all is that Dunn struck out just three times in the series and none in five trips to the plate Wednesday, a clear sign that he is moving on to the next series against the Angels with his best swing of the season.
The way the team was constructed, the White Sox needed everybody to deliver their career norms in order for the White Sox to be successful. But as the last three games have shown, the White Sox can mask Konerko's current shortcomings with a multi-faceted attack.
In the two games Konerko missed against the Twins, the White Sox recorded double digits in hits during back-to-back games for the first time this season. Wednesday's 14-hit attack made it three consecutive games.
That their mini-homer barrage came at Target Field, should also be taken into consideration. The Twins' four-year-old ballpark is far from a launching pad yet the heavy hitters still went deep and with room to spare. Angel Stadium is also a park that can be cruel to hitters, especially in night games, and the White Sox will play under the lights both Thursday and Friday.
As for whether or not the lineup has turned the corner that remains to be seen. Before play Wednesday, the White Sox's combined .283 on-base percentage would be the lowest by an American League team since the 1910 St. Louis Browns posted a .281 mark.
But over the 17 games before Wednesday, the White Sox were hitting .267 with runners in scoring position. It's not exactly the stuff of offensive juggernauts, but considering their batting average with runners in scoring position was .161 over the first 20 games, the White Sox are moving in the right direction.