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RED SOX 4, BLUE JAYS 0

Young Red Sox deliver

Stars may have been born in rookie Youkilis, Arroyo

TORONTO -- A child was born. "A little knuckleballer!" Pedro Martinez shouted gleefully yesterday after word reached the Red Sox that Tim Wakefield's wife, Stacy, had delivered a son.

But a couple of stars may have been born, too, on a blissful afternoon when all seemed right in the Sox universe. By the time the Wakefields welcomed their first child into the world at 2:20 p.m. at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Kevin Youkilis already had left an indelible mark north of the border by launching a home run in his major league debut and the team's so-called sixth starter, Bronson Arroyo, was well on his way to submitting one of the finest pitching performances for the Sox this season.

The Wakefields had yet to name their newborn son. But for one sweet moment after the Sox blanked the Blue Jays, 4-0, before 36,841 at SkyDome and wrested first place in the American League East from the Yankees, Kevin Bronson Wakefield seemed to work just fine.

Arroyo himself was so fine in his first start since he replaced Byung Hyun Kim in the rotation that his teammates unabashedly reveled in his glory. Kim had alienated a number of players with his aloofness off the field and his tediously subpar performances on the mound.

"I don't care what anybody says, this kid deserves to be in our rotation," Kevin Millar said after Arroyo three-hit the Jays over eight scoreless innings. "He's proven to us he can do it. That's the big thing, this whole team loves playing behind Bronson Arroyo."

The Sox also got a kick out of Youkilis. Filling in for Bill Mueller (right knee inflammation) at third base, Youkilis became the first Sox player to homer in his major league debut since Sam Horn July 25, 1987. And Youkilis gave the weary Sox such a lift that he inspired some comedy from Martinez, who persuaded his teammates to act as if nothing had happened after the rookie whaled a pitch from Pat Hentgen into the second deck beyond the left-field wall in the fourth inning.

"When you go deep," the Sox ace had told Youkilis after he popped out in his first at-bat in the bigs, "we're going to give you the silent treatment."

And so they did, making the kid's special moment even more memorable when they finally cracked.

"He can say what he wants," said manager Terry Francona, "but I can imagine his feet probably haven't really touched the ground."

Francona should know since he was a rookie once himself.

"Your first day in the big leagues is like no other," Francona said. "We've all been through getting married and all that stuff, but you're not nervous like this because you have waited for this day your whole life."

Now Youkilis knows the feeling.

"I don't think I'll reach a low for a while," he said after going 2 for 4 and cleanly handling his chances in the field. "It's amazing."

His homer overshadowed solo shots by Mark Bellhorn and David Ortiz and a run-scoring double by David McCarty. But Arroyo's gem shined through, ranking with Curt Schilling going the distance in a 9-1 victory May 8 over the Royals and Martinez blanking the Yankees for seven innings in a 2-0 triumph April 25 among the team's most dominant pitching performances this season.

"Spectacular," catcher Doug Mirabelli said. "He didn't throw a bad pitch all day."

Arroyo, who wielded a nasty curveball, surrendered only singles to Eric Hinske in the second and fourth innings and a triple to Chris Gomez leading off the third. He also hit a batter. But otherwise Arroyo was so sharp that he threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 28 batters he faced and went to three balls in the count only three times. In fact, he threw more than one ball to a batter only six times. He was so efficient that he threw 100 pitches over eight innings while Hentgen departed after tossing 108 through five innings.

"That was incredible," Johnny Damon said, "especially the way Toronto has been swinging the bats."

Arroyo, who struck out six, faced his stiffest challenge when Gomez's fly down the right-field line narrowly eluded the diving Millar and bounced into a fan's hands for a ground-rule triple. He froze Gomez at third by fanning Orlando Hudson and getting Frank Catalanotto to line to shortstop before Millar saved a run by making a dandy diving catch on a line drive by Vernon Wells for the final out.

"When everything goes your way like that," Arroyo said, "it makes it a lot easier."

The Jays managed to move only one other runner past first base in the game, when Carlos Delgado was hit by a pitch leading off the fourth and reached third on Hinske's one-out single. But Delgado went no farther as shortstop Cesar Crespo turned a double play on a grounder by Simon Pond.

"He never gave them a chance to get a rally going," Mirabelli said of Arroyo. "They were going to have to hit a solo home run to get on the board at any time."

Though Arroyo battled the flu all week, he said he felt fine by the second or third inning. Still, Francona proceeded cautiously after Arroyo carried the Sox through the eighth, sending out Keith Foulke to wrap up the victory in the ninth. That was fine with Arroyo, who already had made the case that he qualified for the fifth spot in the rotation.

"It was a good time to have a good performance," he said, "and let everybody know I'm good enough to definitely get deep in the game and win some ballgames."

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