CHICAGO -- Adam Dunn took a big swing at Tommy Hunter's full-count curveball in the ninth inning on Thursday afternoon and the ball left his bat carrying with it a potential win for the Chicago White Sox.
It was one of those towering fly balls hit by Dunn at U.S. Cellular Field that White Sox fans have seen nestle into the webbing of an outfielder's glove too often this season. This one didn't, though.
This one cleared the fence by several rows, setting off fireworks on the Fourth of July, and the White Sox had a big 3-2 victory in the bag against the Baltimore Orioles on a sun-drenched summer day -- another rarity here.
"Once he's hitting the ball the other way, he's dangerous," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Dunn, who went 3-for-4 with two of his hits going to the opposite field. "He's dangerous anytime he goes up there, but just the quality of the at-bats is great to see. He's putting it in play with some authority."
It didn't do anything to get Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana a victory, something he hasn't been credited with since May 21 against the Boston Red Sox, but Dunn's walk-off homer did win a series for the White Sox (34-48). Chicago won the three-game series and their first home series since May 24-26, when the Sox swept the Miami Marlins.
Chicago is still mired in last place of the American League Central, but Dunn hopes this series will spark a hot streak.
"I'm not writing this year off," he said. "I don't know what everybody else is saying or thinking, but I'm not writing this year off yet. We're capable of rattling off some significant wins in a row and hopefully this is the start of something good."
Quintana, meanwhile, had a dominant start spoiled in the eighth inning when Baltimore scored twice off reliever Nate Jones. Quintana settled for a seventh straight no-decision after the Orioles got to Jones, who was 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in his previous 13 appearances, but he didn't seem to mind all that much after watching Dunn's heroics.
"Not at all," Quintana said through an interpreter. "Those are things you can't control. The most important thing, to me, is if the team wins. The best thing I can do for the team is give the team a quality start and give the team the opportunity to win and give a quality outing."
Jones' troubles started with a walk to Brian Roberts to lead off the eighth, followed by Nate McLouth's double to right field to put the tying run in scoring position with no outs. After second baseman Gordon Beckham made a great leaping grab on Chris Dickerson's line drive for the first out, the Orioles (48-38) scratched out the tying runs on a ground ball by Matt Wieters and a sacrifice fly that scored McLouth, tying it at 2.
After the Sox failed to counter against Hunter in the bottom of the eighth, closer Addison Reed (4-1) retired the Orioles in order in the ninth to put him in line for the win.
Before the late-inning drama, Quintana and Orioles starter Zach Britton were locked in a duel. Baltimore only threatened to score against Quintana in the first inning and it took the Sox until the sixth to break Britton's spell.
"Both guys pitched real well," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It was going to be a small margin of error. We were fortunate to push over a couple (of runs) there on their bullpen, but Quintana's tough. You can see why they're so high on him. He's been pitching well for them."
A bunt single by Manny Machado in the first started Baltimore's lone scoring opportunity against the Sox left-hander. Adam Jones drew a walk in the next at-bat, with one out, but Chris Davis' hard liner up the middle was caught by Alexei Ramirez -- who stepped on second for an inning-ending double play.
Quintana only allowed one more hit through the next six innings and retired 18 of the next 19 hitters he faced. He set down the final 13 Orioles he saw in a row, including eight by strikeouts and twice striking out the side, in the fourth and sixth.
Meanwhile, the Sox offense broke through against Britton in the sixth for two runs, highlighted by Ramirez's leadoff double and run-scoring singles by Alex Rios and Dunn.
Quintana added his last two strikeouts in a scoreless seventh before giving way to the White Sox bullpen after 112 pitches.
Britton was also solid for the Orioles, who lost their first series against the White Sox in the past five sets. Britton also took a no-decision and threw seven solid innings. He didn't strike out as many as Quintana, fanning only three, but allowed just the two runs in the sixth and worked around six hits.
"He gave us a good chance to win today," Showalter said. "I was real proud of Zach. He pitched aggressive and just kept firing. If we'd have been able to push a run across (in the ninth) there, he'd have been the difference-maker."
NOTES: White Sox RHP Jake Peavy, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a broken rib, is scheduled to throw his second bullpen session on Saturday since going down with the injury in June. ... The White Sox will embark on a nine-game road trip split up by a makeup game at home against the Chicago Cubs on Monday. ... Baltimore is close to getting RHP Wei-Yin Chen back in the starting rotation after a left oblique strain. Chen was slated to throw his second, and final, rehab start on Thursday night for Doubvle-A Bowie and then drive to New York to meet the Orioles for a weekend series against the Yankees.