"I haven't laughed on a baseball field like that in a long time, ever since I was probably kicking dandelions, in my early teens," said White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton of Dunn's Major League pitching debut. "He had good sink, that's all I can say. He was 80 mph but he had really good sink."
"He's been begging for that for a while," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Dunn taking the mound. "You've got to give the fans what they want."
What the fans really wanted was a better showing from the White Sox and not the second time in three days that the team has allowed 16 runs. But with the game beyond out of reach in the ninth, Dunn's appearance sparked just as much excitement as a walk-off victory.
His first pitch, a 78-mph called strike to Elvis Andrus, drew huge cheers from the remaining fans in attendance. His next pitch, jumping up to 80 mph, was called a ball by home-plate umpire Chris Conroy. Dunn snapped his glove in mock disgust when he caught the return throw from catcher Adrian Nieto, having as much fun as everyone else with the improbable situation.
At 6-foot-6, 285 pounds, Dunn also presented a problem for the Rangers if one of his many changeups got away inside.
"If he hit somebody, we can't charge the mound because he's too big," said Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre of facing Dunn. "At least he came in there throwing strikes, although he walked a couple of guys."
"Honestly, for me, it's the worst at-bat in baseball. It's a lose-lose situation," Texas designated hitter J.P. Arencibia said. "Your adrenaline is at zero and you're just trying to be as locked in as possible, and you look up there and there's Adam Dunn, you know? A guy that I've watched my whole life growing up, hitting homers and looking up to ... and now I'm facing him."
Arencibia made one of the three outs against Dunn, hitting a spinning popup to first baseman Jose Abreu on what Arencibia termed a power sinker that broke his bat in half. Dunn also retired Andrus on a ground ball to second baseman Leury Garcia and Rougned Odor on a fly ball to left fielder Dayan Viciedo, but allowed one run on two hits and one walk.
In that Odor at-bat, the crowd was on its feet for the 2-2 pitch and the 3-2 pitch to the second baseman. Dunn became the first player to pitch after starting the game at DH since Chris Davis of the Orioles on May 2, 2012 against the Red Sox, according to STATS LLC. Dunn finished 0-for-4, including the first out in the ninth.
He joined Garcia, who suffered the loss in a 14-inning home setback to Boston on April 16, as the second White Sox position player to pitch this season. The last time the White Sox had two pitching appearances by a position player in the same season was 1979, when Wayne Nordhagen worked on May 27 against California and June 4 vs. Milwaukee. Dunn became the third Chicago position player to take the mound this year, with catcher John Baker earning a win in relief for the Cubs during a 16-inning affair with the Rockies at Wrigley Field on July 29.
Dunn has spoken before of his pitching prowess at New Caney High School in Texas. In Tuesday's debacle, he got to show off his changeup, or maybe his fastball, in giving a little happiness to an otherwise dreary night.
"Obviously it's a pretty [lousy] situation to have him out there, but most importantly it saved an arm in the bullpen," said White Sox starting pitcher John Danks, who allowed nine runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings in the setback. "But after a game like this, hopefully it will send guys home with something to laugh about because the job I did to start the game and the tone I set didn't really have us in the direction of giving us anything to laugh about."
"At that point, it loosens it up a little bit," Ventura said. "But they'll be ready to go tomorrow."