07/31/08 1:03 AM ET
Dunn takes homer lead prior to Deadline
Slugger clubs shots No. 31, 32; Griffey hits No. 608 in victory
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
"That's what the big boys do. They carry people," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Adam has been swinging as good as I've seen him swing since I've been here. Boy, it's very, very welcome."The Reds had a 7-0 lead through five innings, aided by four homers, before Houston mounted a late comeback attempt because of sloppy defense. With one out in the second inning, Dunn launched a solo shot into the right-field upper deck for the Reds' first run of the game against Wandy Rodriguez. In a five-run fifth inning, Ken Griffey Jr. hit a one-out, 0-1 Rodriguez pitch into the right-field seats for his 15th homer of the season and No. 608 for his career. Griffey is one homer behind Sammy Sosa for fifth place on the all-time home run list. Two batters later with two outs, Dunn went deep again with another solo homer over the yellow line on the left-center-field wall. Next batter Edwin Encarnacion made it a seven-run game with a homer to left field off reliever Chad Paronto as the Reds snapped a five-game losing streak and salvaged one game of the three-game set in Houston. "I think everybody is happy we won the last game of the series," Reds starter Edinson Volquez said. "Everybody was tired of losing every day." Volquez pitched 6 1/3 innings and with the exception of Hunter Pence's leadoff homer in the fifth, encountered little trouble. That was until a four-run seventh inning that was extended by two errors from shortstop Jeff Keppinger. The fielding mistakes led to a three-run homer by pinch-hitter Ty Wiggington that made it an 8-5 game. Only one of Volquez's five runs allowed was earned on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Now 12-4 with a 2.71 ERA, Volquez had cooled with a 9.00 ERA over his first two second-half starts but made some corrections after watching video. "I think I was aggressive," Volquez said. "I threw a lot of strikes tonight. I attacked the zone and the hitters. I think all of my pitches were there too." Volquez wasn't the only one who has been working on improving himself. Dunn, now batting .243 with 74 RBIs, has endured a streaky season. By the end of June, he was batting just .221. Cage time with hitting coach Brook Jacoby began around that time, which Dunn believed helped. "Me and Jake worked on a few tweaks," Dunn said. "I hate that word, tweak. It's terrible. It's like tendinitis. It means nothing. I've just been swinging at pitches I had normally been taking. Maybe it's the ash bats [instead of maple], I don't know." Since 2004, Dunn's 198 home runs lead the Majors and have him ahead of mega superstars Alex Rodriguez (196), David Ortiz (191) and Albert Pujols (189). Dunn's 511 walks are also most in the Majors. "It looks like he's getting better at it," Baker said of Dunn's approach. "He's more aggressive early in the count, which is what you like to see. He's not fouling off or missing as many pitches as he was earlier. He's centering a lot of balls. He's knocking them far. Those balls are no-doubters as soon as he hits them." Playing on the eve of Thursday's 4 p.m. ET non-waivers Trade Deadline, Dunn appears to be staying put unless the Reds get an offer they can't refuse. In the past, he's been a prime name around Deadline time. Not so much now with reports indicating there are surprisingly few suitors seeking his bat. Last month, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi publicly blasted Dunn, which probably didn't help. Detractors, which usually point out his strikeout totals and poor defense, also got their share of both Wednesday. In a 3-for-5 game, Dunn struck out twice and dropped a fly ball for an error in the eighth inning. A likely free agent after the season, Dunn's future in Cincinnati is uncertain. Owner Bob Castellini publicly supported him on Tuesday but remained silent about the future. Silence on the rumor mill is bliss for Dunn, who usually dreads July 31 because of the multiple questions he gets about his future. "I don't ever want to hear them. I hate it," Dunn said. "The only time I ever hear them is through you guys [in the media]. I don't watch a lot of TV. I don't read the papers. It's hard to believe, but I don't listen to the radio shows. I just hear what people tell me and I haven't heard anything. I guess that's good."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.