Youkilis provides all the offense Sox need

Youkilis provides all the offense Sox need

Youkilis provides all the offense Sox need
CHICAGO -- Kevin Youkilis wants to make one fact perfectly clear, if he hasn't already countless times since moving to Chicago.

This rejuvenated success he has found as part of the White Sox, with the Youk legend taking on another chapter in Saturday's 2-0 victory over the Blue Jays before 25,399 at U.S. Cellular Field, has nothing to do with showing something to his previous employer.

"I play for the White Sox," said Youkilis, who understandably has had his fill of Red Sox questions. "I'm here to play for the White Sox."

And the White Sox (47-37) are more than happy to have him.

Locked in a scoreless pitchers' battle between Gavin Floyd and Ricky Romero in the fifth inning, Youkilis blasted a 1-1 pitch from Romero 423 feet to center for his third home run since the June 24 trade and his seventh overall. Youkilis has driven in at least one run during all six July games played by the White Sox, and has 10 overall during that time span.

If Rahm Emanuel was up for re-election sometime in the next few days, Youkilis would present a serious challenge. For now, Youkilis will have to settle for instant cult-hero status and the chanting of the shortened version of his last name -- even when making a basic play at third.

"You can be popular one week and you can ... bomb the next," Youkilis said. "This game is crazy, and you've just got to keep grinding it out. You can't get too high and you can't get too low. You just try to stay in the middle."

"He plays the game the right way. He plays the game hard every single day," said White Sox reliever Matt Thornton of Youkilis. "He brings a great attitude every single day."

Alexei Ramirez opened the White Sox fifth with a single and was sacrificed to second by Orlando Hudson. Alejandro De Aza flied out to center for the second out, leaving Toronto manager John Farrell with a bit of a decision: face the red-hot Youkilis with first base open or pitch around him and take on the equally dangerous Adam Dunn, but also a left-handed hitter who is batting just .158 this season against southpaws.

With Dunn having singled and walked earlier in the game off of Romero (8-4), the Blue Jays starter went after Youkilis. It was an understandable idea, but the wrong approach when Youkilis connected on a 91-mph fastball.

"The 1-1 pitch that he's trying to go in to Youkilis, he misfires across the plate," said Farrell of the mistake-pitch by Romero. "It costs him two runs and [is] ultimately the difference in the ballgame."

"I'm just having fun," said Youkilis, who has four homers and seven RBIs lifetime vs. Romero. "Just going out there and playing baseball and trying to do little things here and there."

Floyd (7-8) held the Blue Jays (42-43) scoreless over 7 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and throwing 100 pitches. Toronto's only viable scoring opportunity came in the seventh, following singles by Edwin Encarnacion and one out later by Yunel Escobar. But with runners on first and second, Rajai Davis hit Floyd's next pitch for an inning-ending double play.

It was Floyd's third scoreless start in his last four trips to the mound.

"Honestly, coming out of the bullpen getting started, I didn't feel like I had the greatest stuff," said Floyd, who fanned three and walked two. "Sometimes, there's days you focus better and make the better pitches. As the game went on, I felt better and better and kept going."

"Gavin threw the ball great. He worked fast," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski of Floyd, who is 3-1 with a 1.37 ERA over his last four starts after going 1-4 with 10.38 ERA in his previous six outings. "He commanded all his pitches. It wasn't a lot of dead time in between pitches and he was super aggressive -- which is something we have been harping on him for a while about. It was nice to see and to see him get the results he got."

Closer Addison Reed had pitched the last three games, so manager Robin Ventura called upon Matt Thornton (second save) for the four-out save. He got some ninth-inning help from a Jose Bautista baserunning blunder, when Bautista was thrown out at third trying to inexplicably stretch a double into a triple, down two runs and with one out after left fielder Dayan Viciedo lost his line shot in the sun.

Home cooking continued to taste sweet for the White Sox. They extended their winning streak to seven straight at U.S. Cellular Field and raised their record to 5-0 in this final six-game homestand before the All-Star break. Having Youkilis in the lineup simply adds to the home flavor, as the White Sox try to finish the first half on a high note on Sunday.

"Right now, the clubhouse is thinking 'Let's get tomorrow and enjoy the four days off,'" said a smiling Thornton. "Let's battle out the last day, and come right out of the gates and get after it again."

"It's a good feeling when you know you can win in your home ballpark," Pierzynski said. "Those are the games you're supposed to win more than you lose -- and if you can break even on the road, you should end up pretty well."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.