RICK GANO,AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Frustrated after a pair of strikeouts, Adam Dunn watched video of his first two at-bats between innings to see why he was missing so many pitches in such an important game for the Chicago White Sox.
Assessing his swing with hitting coach Jeff Manto, Dunn apparently figured out the problem.
The burly slugger homered in consecutive plate appearances, including a clutch three-run shot in the eighth inning, and the White Sox beat the Cleveland Indians 5-4 on Monday night to maintain their one-game lead in the AL Central.
Dunn also went deep in the sixth as Chicago snapped a five-game losing streak and stayed in front of second-place Detroit, which beat Kansas City 6-2. The top two teams in the division each have nine games left.
“The last homer, that probably was the most important so far in my career,” Dunn said. “That was a win we needed.”
The designated hitter drove an 0-2 pitch from Vinnie Pestano (3-3) over the wall in right-center with runners on the corners and two out in the eighth, putting Chicago ahead 5-3. Kevin Youkilis kept the inning alive with an infield single off third baseman Jack Hannahan’s glove before Dunn connected for No. 41 on the year.
“We were struggling to score runs,” said Dunn, who entered the game in a 2-for-21 skid. “That guy’s tough man. I hadn’t been seeing the ball real good. He left the pitch over and it was one I was kind of swinging and missing at for about a week. Just happened to hit the barrel.”
Said Pestano: “You can’t make mistakes to those guys. You have to get ahead and you have to bring it. I wasn’t throwing my off-speed for strikes tonight. That had me leaning on fastball, missed a spot and he got me.”
Brett Myers (3-3) pitched the eighth for the win. The Indians got a run in the ninth when Shin-Soo Choo hit a two-out RBI double off Donnie Veal, who then retired Jason Kipnis on a grounder to convert his first save opportunity of the season.
Dunn reached 40 homers in a season for the first time since 2008 and the sixth time in his career. It’s quite a turnaround from last season, when he batted .159 with 11 homers in his first year with Chicago.
This has become one of the most enjoyable and crucial stretches of his career. The slugger has never reached the playoffs in 12 big league seasons.
“It’s baseball. I don’t look at it being important or this or that. This is your job,” Dunn said. “Obviously everybody wants to get to the postseason, but it’s just fun. It’s fun right now when every single game matters. I think a lot of times you put a lot of pressure on yourself. Take a step back once in a while.”
And that’s what he did after falling into the 0-2 hole against Pestano.
“With Youk getting that base hit, it’s a spot you want to be as a hitter,” Dunn said. “People look at it as pressure or this and that but to me, I love being in that situation. Obviously they’re a lot tougher than other situations but sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t.”
Cleveland starter Zach McAllister struck out seven in six innings and was charged with two runs and four hits.
Chicago ace Chris Sale gave up 10 hits in seven innings, including Russ Canzler’s two-run homer in the sixth that gave the Indians a 3-1 lead.
The White Sox had another run cut down at the plate in the fourth when Alejandro De Aza tried to score from first on Youkilis’ double into the left-field corner. Catcher Lou Marson took the relay throw from third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and first base umpire Dan Bellino, who was covering the plate, called De Aza out.
A replay showed that De Aza’s foot hit the plate before the tag.
The White Sox tied it in the fifth on another close play after Alex Rios singled and A. J. Pierzynski walked. After a fielder’s choice put runners at the corners, Alexei Ramirez hit a grounder to shortstop and just beat the relay throw to first, allowing Rios to score on the failed double play.
Cleveland grabbed a 1-0 lead in the third on Kipnis’ single and Asdrubal Cabrera’s double to right.
NOTES: Dunn is the sixth player in White Sox history to reach 40 homers in a season, joining Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, Albert Belle, Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome. … Indians OF Michael Brantley (sore groin) was out of the starting lineup. Manager Manny Acta said Brantley was injured during a rundown against Kansas City. He said Brantley will “need a day or two.” … Acta said SS Jason Donald (wrist) was “a little sore” after swinging a bat Sunday, the first time he’s done so since being hit by a pitch Sept. 14. There is no timetable for his return. …. White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Jake Peavy might be pushed from Wednesday to Thursday, meaning he would pitch the opener of the final four-game home series against the Rays.
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