Youkilis is the best pure hitter on the Red Sox, and the man they always want standing at the plate with the game on the line. Francona got his wish. Youkilis strode to the plate with two outs and a runner on third and promptly drilled a game-tying double against Lee.
It was Youkilis who gave himself a chance to end the game with a walk-off sacrifice fly, giving the Red Sox a riveting 3-2 victory over the Rangers in 11 innings.
"Obviously we're always trying to find a way to win, but I told [bench coach] DeMarlo [Hale] and [pitching coach] John [Farrell] before the inning, 'If we get to Youk, we'll be OK.' That's probably wishful thinking because of how good Lee is, but I guess that shows the amount of confidence we have in Youk," said Francona.
To get to Youkilis, the Sox needed a leadoff single by Marco Scutaro and a sacrifice bunt by Darnell McDonald. David Ortiz rifled a groundout into shallow right field, right into the overshift, moving Scutaro to third.
Youkilis worked the count to 1-1 and scorched a liner down the line in left.
"Youkilis is just something else," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "This guy constantly rises to the occasion and it always seems it's against us. I know they've seen it in Boston."
Mike Cameron nearly sent everyone home with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th, but his blast to right-center was hauled in by a leaping Nelson Cruz just in front of the Boston bullpen. If Cruz didn't track it down, it would have landed in the 'pen.
Thanks to some strong work by Jonathan Papelbon (two shutout innings) and Manny Delcarmen (one scoreless frame in his return from the disabled list), the stage was set for the winning rally in the 11th. The Red Sox used the same formula as in the ninth.
Scutaro led off the winning rally in the 11th with a walk. McDonald pushed down a seemingly innocent sacrifice-bunt attempt that turned into disaster for the Rangers.
Pitcher Alexi Ogando fielded and fired to second, but his throw was low and way off the mark, rolling into center field. The runners moved to second and third with nobody out.
"I was just focused on getting the bunt down," said McDonald. "Sometimes I think the harder a guy is throwing the better. It gives you less time to think."
After an intentional walk to Ortiz, the Rangers called on righty Darren O'Day. Youkilis hit it just deep enough to bring in Scutaro for the winner.
"You just try not to swing at the slider," said Youkilis. "He tries to throw that slider and make you chase it. I've faced him a few times, and I've chased it a couple of times. For me, I was just telling myself to lay off that slider away and just try to stay back as much as I can. I can catch up to a fastball and drive it out to the outfield. I didn't have to get a hit. I just had to drive it out to the outfield if I could."
Making just his second start since being traded from the Mariners to the Rangers, Lee gave up six hits and two runs over nine innings, walking one intentionally and striking out six.
"I mean, that's about as well-pitched a game as you're going to see. He never walks anybody," Francona said. "You can't steal. He throws strike after strike after strike. It has movement. And it's not in the middle of the plate. Fortunately we extended the game because that's one of the better performances you're ever going to see."
Lee threw 105 pitches, 75 for strikes.
The Red Sox had no chance in this one if they didn't get a tremendous performance from their own starter -- big righty John Lackey.
Lackey gave up seven hits and two runs in seven innings, walking two and striking out three. He threw 115 pitches, 70 for strikes.
"About as good as I've been this year, for sure," said Lackey. "Even the hits I gave up for the runs, I threw them right where I wanted to. They got in on both those guys, they were strong enough to kind of get them over the infield."
The Red Sox struck early against Lee. With one out in the first, McDonald clubbed a one-out double off the Monster in left-center and Ortiz ripped a single up the middle to bring him home. It had a chance to be a real nice inning for Boston, as Youkilis followed Ortiz with a hard single up the middle. But with two on and one out, Adrian Beltre hit into a 4-6-3 double play and Lee was off the hook, having given up just one run.
Not only were the Boston batters going down, but they were doing so in the swiftest fashion imaginable. Lee threw just six pitches in the seventh and five in the eighth.
Meanwhile, Lackey turned in one of his best starts of the season. He shut Texas down over the first five innings before finally running into trouble in the sixth. It all started with two outs, when Ian Kinsler struck a single up the middle. Vladimir Guerrero followed with a walk. Josh Hamilton roped an RBI single up and Cruz did the same, giving Texas a 2-1 lead.
But the Red Sox, who sliced their American League East deficit to 5 1/2 games while remaining 3 1/2 in back of the Rays in the Wild Card standings, hung tough.
"You can't say enough about this club," said Lackey. "We've got a lot of things going against us right now. We keep battling, we keep grinding. We've got a lot of pros in that room. They're going to be here for the long run, for sure. I came back out there on the bench just to be a part of the boys. I was ready to jump around a little bit and we ended up doing it."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less