Kevin Youkilis’ bat, Gavin Floyd’s arm lead White Sox past Blue Jays
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org July 7, 2012 8:56PM
Kevin Youkilis watches his fifth-inning home run leave the park against the Blue Jays. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: August 9, 2012 9:47AM
How big a difference will Kevin Youkilis make for the White Sox in their pursuit of the playoffs?
Seventy-eight games remain to learn the answer, but the former Boston Red Sox star already has set the bar high.
Youkilis has been with the Sox for 12 games, and they have won nine of them, including a 2-0 victory Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays in which he hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning.
Youkilis is hitting .391 with two homers and 10 RBI in a six-game hitting streak and is hitting .311 with three homers and 13 RBI with the Sox overall.
‘‘It’s hard to say you expect it, but you like having guys on base and him in tough situations because he just continues to find the right pitch and continues to battle,’’ manager Robin Ventura said.
‘‘I think sometimes guys get a fresh start,’’ catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. ‘‘Guys who have been with one organization a long time switch organizations . . . and it’s a shock. But it happens a lot. He’s been great for us.’’
Youkilis had been all but benched by the Red Sox. He was hitting only .233 when the Sox acquired him for utility player Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart.
‘‘I’m just having fun, just going out there and playing baseball and trying to do little things here and there,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s just going out there and playing the game. And Robin does a good job making sure we go out there and just play the game. Guys in this locker room do a good job.’’
The Sox have won five consecutive games and are 10 games above .500 (47-37) for the first time since the end of the 2010 season. They’re also 8-1 in their last nine home games.
‘‘We’ve just been playing better overall,’’ Pierzynski said. ‘‘It’s just maybe a coincidence [the victories] have come at home. But it’s a good feeling when you know you can win in your home ballpark.’’
Right-hander Gavin Floyd (7-8) entered the game Saturday winless in his career against the Blue Jays, but he allowed only four hits in
72/3 innings. Matt Thornton got the last four outs for his second save.
‘‘[Floyd] threw the ball great,’’ Pierzynski said. ‘‘He worked fast and had command of all his pitches, and he was super-aggressive, which is something we have been harping on him about for a while.’’
‘‘I try to have a good tempo every time,’’ Floyd said. ‘‘I try to get in sync, try to make good pitches. Maybe I am a little quicker [in his delivery]. Maybe I should work on that.’’
The Sox had only four hits, all against Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero (8-4). But two came in the fifth, when Alexei Ramirez led off with a single and scored on Youkilis’ two-out homer.
‘‘That’s all it takes,’’ Thornton said. ‘‘I think the fresh start has been great for [Youkilis]. He’s looking great for us, and I’m happy to have him here. He brings a great attitude every single day.’’
The Sox lead the Cleveland Indians by three games in the American League Central with one game left before the All-Star break.
‘‘First-place teams are pretty good, especially at the halfway mark,’’ Youkilis said. ‘‘But you have to stay on top and keep playing good ball all the way through.’’