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MORRISSEY: White Sox might not be great team, but they didn’t give in Monday

White Sox slugger Adam Dunn is greeted by teammates KevYoukilis Jordan Danks after his three run home run eighth inning.

White Sox slugger Adam Dunn is greeted by teammates Kevin Youkilis and Jordan Danks after his three run home run in the eighth inning. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 26, 2012 2:24PM

Baseball is a mystery — a complete, flipping mystery — and as much as people try to solve it with stats, math equations and master’s degrees in business, sometimes there’s no explaining it.

I don’t think anyone would go so far as to say the White Sox or the Detroit Tigers are a great team. Few people would suggest they’re even very good teams. We probably can find common ground in saying both American League Central clubs are nice enough teams.

But even when you sink to that almost-patronizing description, it’s hard to explain why they’ve struggled so much down the stretch. A nice team should be good enough to win more games than it loses in a September pennant race. That’s not a very high bar. It’s not as though we’re asking the Sox and the Tigers to wrestle the national debt into submission.

We’re just looking for signs of life. That doesn’t seem unreasonable.

There was some of that Monday. Finally. The Sox, behind Adam Dunn’s 40th and 41st home runs, came back to beat the Cleveland Indians 5-4. The Tigers beat the Kansas City Royals 6-2.

All we really know for sure is that the Sox have a one-game lead with nine games left in the season. We don’t know if Monday was one of those instances where the patient comes out of a long coma, asks for a cheeseburger and fries and returns to nowhere land.

Dunn was swinging and missing so hard early in the game Monday that he was creating his own weather system. Then he launched one 436 feet in the sixth inning to quiet the grumbling. Then the three-run blast in the eighth to set off the fireworks.

He called the second homer the most important of his career.

‘‘This one sticks out because it was a situation where we really needed it,’’ he said.

They did. The Tigers already had won, but it was more than that. The Sox needed to feel good about themselves again. A five-game losing streak was in danger of stretching to six.

The Sox had gone into the game having won just nine games in September. The Tigers had won 10, which sounds a bit better, until you realize that they had lost five of their previous eight games.

Even with the victories by both teams Monday, the question remains: Is this a pennant race or an emergency appendectomy?

‘‘A lot of people really want to do so well, they’re trying so hard — me included — that you stink,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘You can’t try so hard in this game because if you start doing that, you’re going to try to do stuff you’re not capable of doing.’’

It’s not that either team is allergic to winning this thing; it’s that when they go to grab it, they seize up. Both teams have a lot of pride, so you’d assume they’re feeling a bit sheepish about — if not completely embarrassed by — what’s transpiring. You’d assume wrong.

‘‘I guarantee whoever wins this division, they’ll be partying and having fun just the same as a team that wins 100 games,’’ Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said.

This is the time of season when you want to feel the hand of momentum firmly on your back. In the previous seven days, Kevin Youkilis had gone 5-for-30 (.167) with no homers and one RBI. Dunn was 3-for-26 (.115) with no homers and no RBI. Konerko had gone 4-for-21 (.190) with one homer and one RBI.

Can you win when your Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters are struggling so badly? No, but the Sox are hoping Monday was the start of something.

Konerko said the Sox haven’t run out of gas. Manager Robin Ventura said the team is tired, just like every other team at this time of the season. Let’s meet in the middle: The Sox look more numb than tired recently.

‘‘The effort’s there,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘That’s all you can ask.’’

‘‘I’m sure it’s entertaining for the people on the outside,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘From the inside, it’s a grind.’’

I feel comfortable speaking for everyone on the outside: It hasn’t been nearly as entertaining as it was Monday.

‘‘We’re in first place,’’ Dunn said before the game. ‘‘That’s what people are still forgetting. We are in first place still. And if we win as many games as we can and we play well, we go to the playoffs. . . .

‘‘If we win ’em all and they win ’em all, guess who goes?’’

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