Adam Dunn hit a three-run homer in the first inning off left-hander Jon Lester, the White Sox scored all of their runs with two outs and Paul Konerko ended a 6-4 win Monday over Boston with a diving stop to his right. No less than a week ago, all of those occurrences would've seemed far-fetched for a White Sox team spinning its wheels in last place.
But for the first time since early April, there's earnest optimism on the South Side.
The White Sox are still three games below .500 and six out of first place, but since Robin Ventura put the Sox to work with a pregame practice last Tuesday, they've played much better baseball.
"We’ve played sounder defense the past six games or so, ever since Robin had them out early, we’ve been solid defensively since then," general manager Rick Hahn observed before Monday's game. "It’s nice to see that return closer to the level of offensive performance than we expected to see. And we’re getting close to getting a few guys back, health-wise, and hopefully we’ll continue this roll we’re on now and hopefully be able to add a few reinforcements in the coming days."
It's been a welcome change for the Sox after over a month of sloppy defense and weak offense.
Dunn's home run was his fifth in seven games, and entering Monday he had a .354 OPS against left-handers. His resurgence, coupled with the return of Dayan Viciedo from the disabled list, has revitalized the middle of the White Sox order even as Paul Konerko continues to struggle.
"We’re still not hitting on all cylinders right now. I don’t expect that last too much longer," Dunn said. "Paul’s been scuffling a little bit but he’s the last guy I’m worried about. I think if everybody continues to grind it out like we’re doing and getting good at-bats, we’ll be fine."
After Dunn's home run, the Sox offense showed signs of life by which manager Robin Ventura said he was more encouraged. With two outs in the second, Tyler Greene, Alejandro De Aza and Alexei Ramirez hit back-to-back-to-back doubles to plate a pair of runs, and in the fifth Viciedo finished a nine-pitch at-bat with an RBI single up the middle.
The Sox haven't committed any crippling errors recently, either, and on Monday the team played some of its best defense of the season.
"As bad as we have played, the good news is we're not out of it by no means," Dunn said. "… Obviously we've had some big injuries. We could easily be 10, 15 out, but we're not. Hopefully our best baseball is yet to come."
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John Danks is nearing a return from the disabled list, and the Sox are hoping to get Gordon Beckham back by the weekend. That'll mean the White Sox will be about as healthy as they'll get this year -- save for little-used reserve Angel Sanchez and Gavin Floyd, who won't pitch until 2014 at the earliest.
While Beckham and Danks won't be counted on to be the pieces who push the White Sox back into the AL Central race immediately, just their presence could provide a boost.
"There’s something to be said about you have the best laid plans of your team when you leave spring training or in the offseason, there is a certain energy when you have that roster or get those guys back because it feels like this was what you were supposed to have," Konerko explained.
This is the kind of play the White Sox kept stressing was going to come around, even as sloppy play cost them series after series. One week is hardly enough to declare them primed for a big run, but it's a start.
"I think you can feel that there’s a little different energy in the clubhouse," Konerko said. "You feel that there are some good things that can happen."