THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Confidence at plate sitting well with Youkilis

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / October 25, 2007

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For now, it's so easy. No decisions. Place Kevin Youkilis in the No. 2 spot in the order. Watch him smack the ball around the ballpark.

This, of course, will become much more complicated in the coming days, when the World Series shifts to Colorado and the lack of a designated hitter will force the trio of Youkilis, Mike Lowell, and David Ortiz to start playing musical bases. It will be difficult to sit Youkilis, just off an American League Championship Series in which he hit .500 and three home runs. And especially after he started the World Series exactly the way he finished the ALCS.

In the Red Sox' 13-1 victory over the Rockies in Game 1 last night, Youkilis scored three runs in the first five innings, hitting two doubles and walking once, as he helped pace Boston with a 2-for-5 night with one RBI. Not that there should be any surprise on that count.

And that was why, after the game, hardly any questions were directed to Youkilis about his performance. Those have been asked and answered, over and over again the past weeks. He was more inclined to talk about the team, though he did address his own spectacular offense once.

"I think you have more confidence," Youkilis said of his current run. "You feel more comfortable in the fact that you have the confidence at the plate. Other than that, I think I just go up there and just try to go pitch to pitch. I know I can't get two or three hits in my first at-bat. I've got to go up there and get on base for David and Manny [Ramírez] behind me. It's been going well for me lately. I'm just going to try to keep doing the things I've been doing well, try to add on to that, try to get better each day. As I said, this is going to be a tough series."

It didn't look tough against a rested (or rusty?) Rockies club. Because Youkilis wasn't alone, teammates delivering throughout the lineup, especially with two outs. Manager Terry Francona, when asked about the two-out success, specifically mentioned Youkilis, whose walk in the second and double in the fifth both came with two down.

It was the first baseman who ignited the seven-run fifth inning by doubling to left to score Jacoby Ellsbury, after Dustin Pedroia had popped to shortstop for the second out of the inning. The Sox tacked on six more two-out runs to end any chance the Rockies had of coming back to steal Game 1.

"I know pitchers can't stand the two-out rallies," Youkilis said. "Sometimes getting two quick outs is tough for some pitchers, and tonight we came through and had some good at-bats and huge two-out hits. When a pitcher is out there, that one out seems like it's six outs sometimes. That's how it was tonight."

Though Francona said the performance of his players in these first two games of the World Series will have no bearing on who sits and who plays in Coors Field, that might be difficult to stomach for some observers. The health of Ortiz's knee will clearly be a huge factor. But Youkilis might have to sit for a start, removing a key bat from the lineup. Those decisions, though, have yet to be made (or at least shared).

Instead, there is time to simply appreciate Youkilis's presence, his swing and his stats, that enabled him to be up there with Josh Beckett as a candidate for MVP of the ALCS.

His fly out to right ended the seven-run fifth inning, perhaps a good thing for the wet and chilled crowd filling Fenway Park. Hard to argue, really, with anything he's been doing lately.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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