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Dunn says one-on-one battles vs. pitchers keep him motivated

Updated: September 22, 2013 6:43AM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Last place has a flat, uninspired feel about it.

As White Sox slugger Adam Dunn pointed out Tuesday, it’s plain to see by looking around the visitors’ clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium. Players do their usual work and preparation, but the buzz and pregame energy that existed while the Sox were in first place for 117 days last season is only a memory.

On the field, though, it’s game on. Players might play for the money, but they thrive on competition.

‘‘When you get in the game, I don’t care if you’re a hundred games up or a hundred games back, it’s the competition that keeps you going,’’ Dunn said before the Sox defeated the Kansas City Royals 2-0 behind eight strong innings from left-hander John Danks. ‘‘That’s why I don’t look at a pitcher’s ERA or a pitcher’s anything. A pitcher will say the same thing — that it doesn’t matter if I’m hitting .100 or .500. It’s the competition that matters. That’s why this is great. How you play shouldn’t be affected by where you are in the standings.’’

Dunn has more than held his own on the contest line, with 28 home runs and 73 RBI. His .340 on-base percentage is second on the Sox to the .353 of Gordon Beckham, whose homer in the first inning was all Danks (3-10) and closer Addison Reed needed.

Dunn insisted he doesn’t pay much attention to his numbers and that he only cares about winning the four or five one-on-one battles he gets every day.

‘‘That’s what I love about the game,’’ he said. ‘‘Is it a team game? It’s a huge team game. But when I’m in the box, it’s not a team game. It’s one-on-one, and that’s the part that’s really cool about it.’’

In the third year of a four-year, $56 million contract, Dunn hasn’t lived up to that kind of cash, primarily because of a horrible first season in Chicago in 2011 (though he did hit 41 homers and drive in 96 runs last season). He now is enjoying his best two-month stretch since joining the Sox, hitting .316 with 15 homers, 42 RBI and 39 walks since June 8.

By taking pitches to left field more often, Dunn has forced some teams to stop using shifts against him. He said he’s going that way because pitchers are pitching him away more than they have since his first two seasons in the majors.

‘‘Ninety percent of the pitches have been away,’’ he said. ‘‘I think it’s because I’m consistently in a much better hitting position. They can’t consistently come in there
[inside], or I’ll fight it out. It feels good. I like where [I’ve] been all year. I’d like to keep it like this for the duration of my career.’’

Dunn was 0-for-4 with a fly ball to the warning track in center field. Beckham hit his fourth homer of the season, a bases-empty shot against Ervin Santana (8-7) in the first, and Paul Konerko doubled and scored on a passed ball in the second.

Danks lowered his ERA to 4.22 by pitching eight scoreless innings. He allowed seven hits and one walk and struck out two to win on the road for the first time this season. Reed pitched the ninth for his 32nd save overall and fourth during the Sox’ four-game winning streak.


Twitter: @CST_soxvan

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