PHILADELPHIA - For the last few weeks, Adam Dunn has moped around whatever clubhouse the Reds happened to be occupying. More than once, he has said he just isn't having fun.
Thursday night didn't precipitate an immediate change in Dunn's demeanor - possibly because he detests talking about home runs almost as much as he does losing. Almost as much.
Dunn had to talk about home runs Thursday night because he hit a pair of them, long ones, to give the Reds a rare lead they didn't squander. And he got to talk about winning after the bullpen held on for a 7-5 victory against the struggling Phillies.
He did most of it with his usual self-deprecation, but a few rays of optimism shone through.
"If you win, it's fun - I don't care how good you do or how bad you do," he said. "If you win, you can't help but have fun. For us, playing the way we are, that's miserable for me and I know it's miserable for everybody else."
The present tense in his final sentence is a reflex honed over the last week. Twice before, Saturday against the Dodgers and Tuesday against the Padres, the Reds thought they had nailed down their turnaround win. That hasn't turned out to be the case, of course, but every winning streak starts at one game, and the Reds will have at least a day to believe this was the one.
Though their pitching remains dangerously prone to implosion, the Reds would like to believe their lineup is capable of muscling its way to at least a short string of victories. Thursday night was not the only instance of that this season, but it had been a while.
The power came suddenly for the Reds against Phillies starter Jon Lieber. The right-hander, who had entered the game with a 5-1 record, faced the minimum number of Cincinnati batters through four innings. With a 2-0 lead for Lieber to play with, it looked like another one of those nights for the Reds, losers of 15 of their previous 19 games.
Then Ken Griffey Jr. singled to lead off the fifth and Dunn jumped on Lieber's first offering for a two-run homer to right, tying the game.
The very next inning, now trailing 3-2, the Reds' table-setters for the evening, Felipe Lopez and D'Angelo Jimenez, drew walks. After Sean Casey flied out to left, Griffey singled in Lopez to bring Dunn to the plate.
Again, Dunn let it rip on Lieber's first pitch, and the contact produced one of his more spectacular shots of the year, a rocket that landed in the flowerbed just short of the visiting bullpen.
To hear Dunn tell it, you'd think he was blindfolded and taking his cuts at a piņata. But there was a plan involved. He figured, with Lieber's exceptional command, that getting behind in the count would be a very bad idea. So he went up there hacking.
The fact that both balls left the park and five Reds runs crossed the plate because of them was just a happy accident.
"I just hit 'em," he said. "I mean, it's just part of the game. It's not something I go up there thinking about trying to do. I kind of have an idea how he's going to pitch me and I swing hard in case I hit it."
That hadn't happened nearly as much as Dunn would have preferred during the Reds' troubles. He came to the plate in the fifth inning in a 5-for-37 (.135) slump. Far more importantly, he had driven in only two runs - both on solo homers - in his previous 13 games.
For the Reds to have any chance of emerging from their prolonged skid, they need Dunn to drive in runs. He knows it and everyone around him knows it. Which is why the situations in which he came through Thursday night were particularly important.
"The biggest thing was, guys were on base," said Austin Kearns. "We've been struggling when guys are on base, and we needed something. I'm glad Dunner was able to do what he did; that was big for us."
At any given point in a season, every team will have different players going through hot and cold stretches. Throughout the season that began with the Joe Randa Show, the Reds have had a definite imbalance between those two groups - which wouldn't be a concern if all the weight was on the positive side of the scale.
Griffey has been hitting for a couple of weeks, and Lopez has done more than his share lately. The problem has been finding the combination of streaking hitters in the same inning.
If Dunn can expand on Thursday's showing, the Reds could clear a significant hurdle in their race back toward .500.
"He's capable of getting on a roll like that," said manager Dave Miley.
Given the right confluence of events, the team itself wouldn't mind adopting that statement as its own. Dunn would be right at the front of the pack, sick of losing and eager to have some fun at the office again.
That's why Thursday's game mattered to him, with or without his ninth and 10th home runs.
"You've got to think it's going to start something," he said. "The way we've been losing, you couldn't script it any worse for us. We played a solid game tonight and won, and hopefully we can just continue to be solid and get the big hits when we need it and make the good pitches when we need it and we'll be fine."