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He's flawless at first

Youkilis ties Garvey's mark

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / April 2, 2008

OAKLAND, Calif. - It was one of those context moments: Daric Barton completely missing a foul popup, having it bounce off his chest and shoulder, while Kevin Youkilis was tying the major league record for consecutive errorless games by a first baseman.

The record Youkilis tied (193 games, by Steve Garvey) is almost taken for granted. You expect him to field every grounder flawlessly, scoop throws out of the dirt, and certainly to catch every popup. He'll have done it better than anyone else in history if he gets through today's game without an error.

But in last night's 2-1 win, Youkilis had other big roles.

His fifth-inning single essentially started Joe Blanton's undoing after the righthander had retired eight straight batters. Youkilis came around to score on Jacoby Ellsbury's single to right, sliding through catcher Kurt Suzuki's block of the plate.

In the sixth, Youkilis launched a drive that landed over left fielder Emil Brown's head for a triple, and he soon scored the decisive run on Jason Varitek's double to right.

All Youkilis, all the time.

It wasn't until after the game that Sox PR man John Blake informed Youkilis he had tied Garvey's record.

"I guess it's a great thing and hope to carry it on for a long time," he said.

On the close play at the plate, Youkilis said, "He was real low and I knew I couldn't run him over. He put his legs out, and so I just tried to go in there as hard as I could. He was in an awkward position and he swiped the tag and he didn't touch me when he swiped."

That was a big play, but the fielding record is something that, according to manager Terry Francona, will "finally get Youk some national attention."

"It's definitely a great honor," Youkilis said. "I got to meet [Garvey] when we were in LA for the first time. That was really cool."

With the record tied and a Gold Glove in his possession, Youkilis takes a back seat to no one. Not bad for a converted third baseman.

"I go out there every day and play the game the right way," he said. "I go up there trying to have good at-bats. Field right. Run the bases. That's my attitude every day.

"I can't worry about the streaks. I just try to play the game the right way and help this team win."

As for the conversion to first, he said, "The hardest thing is the adjustment of holding on runners. I hate holding on runners compared to third base where I can just roam free.

"Being a third baseman and trying to be a better third baseman makes you a better first baseman in the long run. I always tried to be a better third baseman. I try to take third base over to first base and not try to be lackadaisical."

He still feels he isn't instinctive enough sometimes.

"Sometimes I have to tell myself where to go," he said. "I have to remind myself to go get the throw."

Will he be one of those multi-Gold Glove winners?

"I never thought about winning it last year," he said. "Never crossed my mind. My goal every year is to hit .300 and I go from there.

"I think when you try to set goals and numbers and awards, it takes away from your daily thing. Awards come at the end of the season, but you have to focus on the daily part of it."

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