Youkilis ultimate gamer
First baseman gets it done with bat, glove
The change is subtle for Kevin Youkilis — and he wants to keep it that way.
Youkilis made sure that he didn’t get too carried away about his performance last night in the Red Sox’ 9-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles. He knows the Red Sox are just halfway through the season. His philosophy: play the game and don’t look at the statistics — even if you do have one of your best games of the season.
“It’s a long year. You’re going to suck some days,’’ said Youkilis, who finished with two extra-base hits and three RBIs. “I don’t worry about it because no one goes through this season without having a horrible day.’’
Yet Youkilis is one of the more emotional players on the Sox. When he hits a routine pop to second base, he usually throws his bat in frustration. Earlier in his career, he was known for having tirades in the dugout during bad performances. This year Youkilis has tried to make an adjustment.
Sure, he still throws a bat or two during a game, but he also has been one of the Sox who has stayed on course throughout a season full of injuries. Before last night’s game, Youkilis was in a bit of a slump, with just six hits in 33 plate appearances. That didn’t bother him.
Youkilis reverted back to his All-Star-caliber play with stellar defense in the first inning. After starter Jon Lester loaded the bases, Youkilis made a diving stretch-catch at first base off an errant throw from Marco Scutaro to get the team out of the inning with a double play.
“It’s a bang-bang play at first and Youk stays on the bag,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “That was big.’’
The play gave the Sox momentum as they scored four runs in the bottom of the inning. From there, Lester pitched six more innings in allowing just one run.
“It saved pitches in the long run,’’ Lester said of the play. “I think that was a big turning point in that game even though it was just the first inning.’’
Youkilis was also in the middle of the Sox offensive outpouring. After the Orioles had scored in the top of the fifth, Youkilis answered with a line-drive two-run homer that smacked the billboard above the Green Monster. The loud “Y-O-U-K!!!’’ chants from the home crowd at Fenway Park were back, too.
“Any home run is good,’’ Youkilis said. “You’re just trying to get hits and if it goes out, it goes out.’’
But another point Youkilis made was that his defensive play in the first inning did not lead to success at the plate. He said there are times when he makes a difficult play in the field only to strike out on his next at-bat. So what led Youkilis to turn things around? His answer: He was just playing baseball.
If that’s the reason, the Sox hope Youkilis continues his strong play. Youkilis is not going to get excited yet — even if one of the best honors in the game could be given to him today. Youkilis is one of the Sox who might be selected as a reserve for the American League All-Star team.
“You don’t play the game to do all that stuff,’’ said Youkilis, who has been an All-Star twice. “I haven’t really thought about the All-Star Game that much.’’
The change is there. Youkilis knows it. He’s just playing, and that is fine with him.
Nate Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.