9:46 AM CDT, July 18, 2012
Four words about Kevin Youkilis: I had no idea.
I knew that Youkilis used to be good. Used to be. But when he was traded from the Red Sox to the White Sox on June 24, he had fewer homers and RBIs that month than Orlando Hudson, the man he was supposed to replace at third base.
Wait, there’s more: Youkilis also had been on the disabled list for a bad back, and now it looked like he might have a bad front, as well. This move smelled like that Ken Griffey Jr. landfill four years ago.
But after waving his magic wand against his former team Tuesday, Youkilis is hitting .319 with four doubles, four homers and 18 RBIs in 18 games for his new team.
I thought Youkilis was a decent gamble. I didn’t expect an MVP candidate. Youkilis has filled a hole nearly as big as the one in Gordon Beckham’s swing.
Sox general manager Ken Williams swiped Youkilis for Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge, two players the Red Sox couldn’t wait to get off the major league roster.
Youkilis came cheap because Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine seemed to want to embarrass the popular and respected Youkilis out of the lineup so he could insert rookie Will Middlebrooks.
And this week, Youkilis proceeded to pants both of them in the first two games of this series.
On Monday, after receiving a standing ovation before his first at-bat in Fenway Park, Youkilis singled, drawing more cheers. Then, on an Adam Dunn groundout, Youkilis raced past Middlebrooks, who was shifted towards second base and slow to react. When the prized Youkilis replacement did make a move, he couldn’t handle the throw. Allowing Youkilis to score from first on an infield grounder.
For those of you scoring in Boston, that’s Youkilis making Valentine’s Red Sox look like Little Leaguers.
The next night, Youkilis came to bat with two on and two out in a game the White Sox led 3-2. First base was open. The left-handed-hitting Dunn was on deck. Valentine allowed left-handed starter Jon Lester was to pitch to Youkilis.
Youkilis promptly hammered a Lester pitch over the Green Monster, executing the remarkable accomplishment of sticking it into the Monster seats and Valentine’s face at the same time. Or maybe it was another body part. Either way, Youkilis’ sixth game-winning RBI since the trade was done with a flourish.
“He’s showing off now,’’ Sox manager Robin Ventura said jokingly.
Truth is, what Youkilis is doing is giving the White Sox lineup a big-boy look. The White Sox can hide Beckham at the bottom while sending up a 1-8 so strong that one of the best clutch hitters, Alexei Ramirez, is hitting eighth.
The White Sox lineup isn’t the Yankees or Rangers, but it’s more relentless than the Tigers and Indians, and that’s all that matters until the playoffs.
Oh yeah, that’s another thing Youkilis did: He made the playoffs look like something the White Sox could accomplish on their own instead of praying that Justin Verlander’s arm falls off.
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