by Steve Bogira
Dunn also didn't strike out. Not once, the whole game. Seriously. He hit fly balls the two times he was retired.
The Big Breeze hadn't gone deep—or medium, or shallow—since June 15. He'd had three singles in 36 at bats, with 21 whiffs. And he was still batting third in the Sox order.
The natives were getting restless. There'd been boos at the Cell recently when Dunn trudged back to the dugout again and again. And again. On Tuesday the Tribune's Phil Rogers suggested that manager Robin Ventura sit Dunn against tough southpaws, especially now that the Sox have Kevin Youkilis in the lineup. Rogers also thought Ventura needed to drop Dunn in the order whenever he slumps so badly. But the rookie manager's strength and weakness is patience.
Dunn's having the craziest season. Yesterday's homer gives him 24, which puts him just one behind Toronto's Jose Bautista for the major-league lead. They could give him the comeback player award right now; the Big Breeze had 11 homers all last year. Even after his recent drought, he's on pace to hit 51 homers. The Sox record is 49, set by Albert Belle in 1998. The team's HR record for a lefty, just 34, was set by Ventura in 1996. Dunn might break that mark before August.
On the K side, Dunn's lapping the league. He has a mind-boggling 121 strikeouts—27 more than the second-place big-league whiffer, Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena. The major league record for whiffs in a season, 223, was set by Mark Reynolds in 2009. Dunn could break that mark with neither hand tied behind his back. At his present K-rate, he'll fan 261 times. This will also obliterate the Sox season record of 177, which Dunn himself set last year.
With yesterday's win, the Sox stretched their first-place lead over Cleveland to two and a half games. Tonight they begin a four-game series with the first-place Yankees in New York. For Sox fans, this summer has turned into unexpected bliss.
Meantime at Wrigley Field yesterday, Steve Clevenger led off the eighth with a pinch single, but the Cubs were unable to bring him around, and the Mets hung on to edge them, 17 to 1.