Youkilis, Humber even series at Fenway Park

Youkilis, Humber even series at Fenway Park

Youkilis, Humber even series at Fenway Park
BOSTON -- It usually takes a very special circumstance for that rare combination of the home faithful cheering a visiting player.

And when that same player has just connected on a three-run homer to pretty much win the game, that support figures to be non-existent.

Then there's the two-day lovefest between the Fenway Park faithful and White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who was traded away from the Red Sox for Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart on June 24. Nothing about this relationship really fits into the normal baseball conventions.

Youkilis clubbed a three-run homer with two outs in the fourth inning Tuesday night to provide the margin of victory in a 7-5 final before the 760th consecutive sellout at Fenway. After Youkilis made contact against struggling Boston starter Jon Lester (5-7), there were a few boos mixed in, but those jeers seemed to be primarily aimed at the Red Sox (46-45).

The chants of "Youuk" still were very prominent, and this crowd was not exactly filled with fans from Chicago's South Side. It was another memorable event in a series filled with them for the popular veteran.

"It's been great, and the fans have been unbelievable," Youkilis said. "I can't thank them enough for all the kind things they keep saying every day.

"Every inning. It's been great and not too many opponents get to come in here and have that opportunity. Usually, it's a little more negative toward the opposition. I've enjoyed it."

This latest moment came with the White Sox (50-40) clinging to a one-run lead but with Dayan Viciedo on third and Gordon Beckham on second. Lester fell behind quickly at 3-0 to the right-handed-hitting Youkilis, with left-handed-hitting Adam Dunn and his .168 average against southpaws standing in the on-deck circle.

First base was open, and it appeared as if Lester might issue an intentional unintentional walk to his former teammate. Instead, Lester fired two fastballs for strikes to bring the count full.

"Obviously, you think about it with Dunn on deck. Lefty-on-lefty matchup is a good matchup," said Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the two-out options. "But at that point we came back to a 3-2 count and I don't second-guess any fastball from Jon."

"We had the right plan: Make great pitches and if you walk him, you walk him," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said. "He went 3-0 and made two other real good pitches and the sixth one wasn't as good as he wanted."

Lester's final pitch of the at-bat, a sinker, didn't sink and Youkilis roped it over the Green Monster. Youkilis picked up his fourth hit of the series in just five at-bats and produced home run No. 4 and his 18th RBI in just 18 games for the White Sox.

"He's showing off now," said a smiling White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "He's rising to the occasion for us and being in big spots."

"You got to go pitch by pitch, because I've been in that situation before," said Youkilis, when asked if he thought about getting the free pass when Lester threw the first three pitches out of the zone. "You start thinking stuff like that, and you're not prepared and bad things happen. I think they were trying to go away again, but the ball came back over the plate."

Philip Humber (4-4) was the beneficiary of Youkilis' latest round of heroics, working six solid innings in his return from the disabled list. Humber last pitched on June 16, when he beat the Dodgers, but was out of action because of a right elbow flexor strain.

Humber threw 104 pitches, striking out three without a walk, and allowing six hits. The only blip on his ledger came in the first, when Boston scored twice after the White Sox scored twice in the top of the inning, but a nine-pitch second coupled with Alejandro De Aza's run-scoring single in the top of the second seemed to get Humber in a groove.

Most importantly, Humber's elbow felt fine after the victory that moved the White Sox back to 3 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers and four ahead of the Indians in the American League Central.

"I made some pressure pitches in a couple of innings and held up pretty good," Humber said. "I was able to throw all of my pitches when I wanted to throw them."

Kelly Shoppach's pinch-hit homer off Matt Thornton capped a three-run eighth for the Red Sox to trim the lead to 7-5, but Addison Reed pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save in 17 opportunities. It was also the eighth White Sox win in their last nine games played at Fenway Park and raised their record to 3-2 on this 10-game road trip to start the second half.

Two games still remain in this series for Youkilis to top his opening accomplishments. But if Youkilis keeps hitting like he has been, those supportive "Youuuks" for this iconic one-time Red Sox figure might lose a bit of their volume.

"Again, it's funny how things work," said Dunn of Youkilis. "How people, it's just, this is the guy I've known for a long time and this is the kind of player that he is. He's not doing anything crazy right now.

"That's kind of like our whole team. Nobody is doing anything special. It's like kind of having normal stuff."

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.