Dunn delivering in the clutch
By Hal McCoy
CINCINNATI — Adam Dunn knew that during the first half of the season he was leaving enough runners in scoring position to fill the Cotton Bowl, but he didn't know just how many.
"I don't pay attention to any numbers, and when I say I don't pay attention I really mean it," said the Cincinnati Reds left fielder. "I knew I wasn't doing very good, but I didn't know the numbers. I knew I was stinking."
Now that the second half of the season has begun, Dunn is cleaning the bases like Liquid Plummer. And he still doesn't know the numbers. He is 9 for his last 17 (.529) with runners in scoring position with two homers and 16 RBIs. He began Wednesday's game with a six-game hitting streak during which he hit .434 (10-23) with three homers and eight RBIs.
Over the last 19 games, he's hit .351, lifting his average from low-rent .221 to a middle-class .251.
"I feel the same way I've felt all year," he said. "I don't know that I'm doing anything different. I work on the same stuff, do things the same way. I hope it stays this way forever," he said. "To me, .250 still stinks, but it is better than .220. That's when it can't get any worse.
"We did good in the first half without me doing much," he said. "I was stinking. Maybe I can keep this up and help us out in the second half."
Dunn was harsh on himself because he does have 30 home runs and 65 RBIs, both tops on the team.
"The home runs? I guess they don't count as far as driving in runs," he said. "I get paid to drive in runs, and that's hard to do when you don't hit with runners in scoring position. I guess a broken-bat single that drives in a run is as good as a 600-foot solo home run."
When somebody said they'd like to see a 600-foot home run, Dunn laughed and said, "So would I."
Manager Jerry Narron believes batting Dunn second was the catalyst that ignited him. "He can hit anywhere, no matter where he is in the order or who is hitting in front of him or behind him," Narron said. "But it helps to hit in front of Ken Griffey Jr. because then they can't pitch Dunn off the plate."
One for what?
Speaking of stinking, second baseman Brandon Phillips began Wednesday's game on a 1-for-30 slide — a slide that Phillips didn't realize he was on.
"I didn't know I was 1 for 30 until I was watching a replay of Tuesday's game and they showed it on the screen," he said. "Wish I hadn't seen it.
"I said: 'Is that for real?' All I need is one hit and then I'll be straight, then everybody will be in trouble. I don't even call it a struggle because some positive things have happened for me. The results are not coming in with hits, but with runners in scoring position, I've been able to get the job done."
Phillips remains in the lineup because he doesn't take his bat to the field. He takes his glove, forgets about all the outs he is making, and plays defense.
"He went through the same thing when he first got here and came out of it and I'm sure he'll come out of it again," Narron said. "He has had good at-bats and he hasn't yet taken his hitting problems to the field."
Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion isn't on vacation, isn't on suspension, hasn't returned to the minors and isn't in Narron's doghouse. Encarnacion's problem is Rich Aurilia.
Encarnacion has appeared in only four games since coming off the disabled list July 6 and played only one game since the All-Star break, going 2 for 3 Sunday against Colorado.
"Aurilia has an 11-game hitting streak (16-42, .381) and is hitting the ball well, so we can't take him out," said Narron.
Narron said Encarnacion would start today at third base against lefty Tom Glavine and that Aurilia or Scott Hatteberg would play first base.