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Red Sox 5, Cardinals 3

Relieved

Youkilis's homer helps Sox finally finish Cardinals

Youkilis on his walkoff homer

Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis talks about his walkoff home run in the 13th inning of Sunday's 5-3 triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals that helped Boston avoid a three-game sweep.
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / June 23, 2008

They came out a step slow, wearied by the game that would not end. Thirteen innings - and one 49-minute rain delay - into what was supposed to be an afternoon game at Fenway Park, Kevin Youkilis stroked his second home run of the game, a two-run shot lofted over the Green Monster.

He was met, as usual, by a group of teammates happy to pound his head into mush, but also by the knowledge that this one was finally, finally over.

"Sick of playing that game," Youkilis said, after the 5-3 win over the Cardinals. "Glad we got done with it. It was getting a little tiring out there, little humid today with the rain."

The Red Sox and Cardinals each loaded the bases in the 11th, only to strand all the runners. But it wasn't just that. The Red Sox led off four straight innings with a hit (10th through the 13th) and three straight with a double before Mike Lowell crushed a single off the Wall to lead off the 13th inning.

That was the charm. Youkilis then smashed a fastball into the seats and a celebration - albeit a quiet one for Fenway - was touched off for the only win the Sox could take from the Cardinals this weekend.

"That's the only time I don't like the Wall," Lowell said, smiling. "I hit that ball pretty well. I can accept the double, but a single really bothers me. That's the equivalent of a blooper in the box score. And I feel like I did so much more than that."

Still, Lowell (3 for 5) did do more than a single in the box score yesterday. He helped prevent the Cardinals from sweeping at Fenway.

None of the late heroics would have been necessary without Jonathan Papelbon.

The Sox closer came in with a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning. He had struck out Rick Ankiel and Yadier Molina, both on 97-mile-per-hour fastballs, when he walked Chris Duncan. Pinch hitter Adam Kennedy followed with a double over the head of Coco Crisp, allowing Duncan to tie the score.

"You don't see it very often," Sox reliever Javier Lopez said. "You get caught up in knowing that [Papelbon] is pretty much lights out every time he's in there. He expects to be lights out and we expect him to be lights out. When it happens you're kind of shocked for a second."

Down 2-0, the Sox scored their first run on a seventh-inning homer by Youkilis, and grabbed two more in the eighth, Crisp tripling when Ankiel fell on his drive to center field. Crisp scored on Julio Lugo's sacrifice fly to tie it. Dustin Pedroia singled and stole second then scored the go-ahead run after consecutive walks to J.D. Drew, Manny Ramírez, and Lowell, including nine straight balls from Chris Perez. But Youkilis left the bases loaded when he struck out swinging.

That's when things got particularly interesting.

"We keep the pressure on, but we couldn't get that run across," manager Terry Francona said. "What, did we lead three innings off with doubles? It's like girls' softball, when you start with the runner on second. We couldn't score. And in some games, that's maybe what it takes, somebody running the ball out of the ballpark.

"I know it's a heck of a lot better hearing the music than coming in frustrated after a long day."

The bases were loaded, with one out in the 11th, when Alex Cora and Jacoby Ellsbury struck out to end it. The Cardinals got a particularly odd bounce in the 12th, a comebacker off the hand of Ron Villone, to the shortstop to get Pedroia at third base for a 1-6-5 fielder's choice.

Oddities, of course. But there was nothing odd about the pitching on both sides.

Though former Sox pitcher Joel Pineiro and Jon Lester were long gone, their pitchers' duel but a memory, both bullpens held up admirably as the game dragged on. The Red Sox' bullpen was especially notable, having had to throw eight innings on Saturday in relief of Daisuke Matsuzaka.

"That seems like it was a long time ago," Francona said, of Lester's outing, in which he went 7 1/3, allowing two runs. "He was really good. It's getting a little repetitive, which is great. Every five days he gets the ball, he's working quicker, he's using his pitches, he's throwing strikes. He's really pitching well."

While the Cardinals didn't have many chances against Lester, they did have some in the later innings, including leaving them loaded in the 11th. That was Hideki Okajima's doing, erased when Craig Hansen got Ryan Ludwick swinging on a slider.

Then there was the 13th, in which Jason Varitek and Duncan had a smash-up at the plate, after a stellar throw by Drew. That saved a run and, ultimately, the game, the 11th time this season the Red Sox have won in their final at-bat.

So what, exactly, does that mean for this team?

"Well, today," Francona said, "it meant Pap gave up a run."

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

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