Youkilis comes out swinging
His big night helps answer questions about offense
Spring training was only a few days old and Kevin Youkilis had heard all the questions about the supposedly deficient Red Sox offense he could take.
“Hey guys,’’ he shouted out to his teammates that February morning. “Can we score a bunch of runs on Opening Night so we don’t have to hear about this anymore?’’
Youkilis made his point in last night’s 9-7 victory against the Yankees, going 3 for 4 with two doubles, a triple, three runs, and two RBIs. He was the first Red Sox player to collect three extra-base hits on Opening Day since Carlton Fisk had a double and two home runs against the Yankees at Fenway Park April 6, 1973.
Hitting cleanup, Youkilis doubled and scored in the second inning, had a two-run triple in the sixth, and then doubled and scored in the seventh.
“I felt good. I just tried to capitalize on pitches. I was very fortunate I wasn’t behind in the count, that always helps,’’ Youkilis said. “I try to calm myself down. I’ve been trying to do that a lot more. That’s one of the big things I’m trying to work on, not being satisfied with any at-bats and calming myself down at the plate.’’
That it was Youkilis who helped carry the offense did not surprise manager Terry Francona.
“He swung the bat so well,’’ Francona said. “If Youk hadn’t got any hits, I would still think he’s a really good cleanup hitter.’’
With the Sox down, 5-2, Dustin Pedroia walked to lead off the sixth against CC Sabathia and went to third on a double by Victor Martinez.
Youkilis got ahead, 3 and 0, and had the green light from Francona. “I just wanted to make sure to see him throw another pitch,’’ Youkilis said. “I was telling myself to lay off some stuff inside. He threw a pitch out over the plate. I tried to drive it the other way.’’
Youkilis waited on the pitch and lined it to right field. It tailed away from Nick Swisher, who was playing a few steps into the gap. The ball rolled into the corner and Youkilis took third without a play.
It was the first Opening Day triple by the Red Sox since Jose Offerman in Kansas City in 1999.
“Right away I saw it off the bat,’’ Youkilis said. “The wind was blowing a little bit that way. I don’t know if that helped it, but it took off.’’
Said Francona: “When he’s driving the ball to right field like that, he’s feeling pretty good about himself.’’
Youkilis scored the tying run on a single by Adrian Beltre.
The Yankees scored twice to retake the lead but the Sox punched back, with Youkilis again playing a leading role.
A two-run homer by Pedroia tied the scored at 7-7. Youkilis doubled off the wall with two out, pulling a pitch from Chan Ho Park.
With David Ortiz at the plate facing Damaso Marte, Youkilis took third on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball. That gave the Sox the lead for good.
“You could see it hit off [catcher Jorge Posada’s glove] hard and it started rolling,’’ Youkilis said. “It was getting away . . . It was definitely not easy with the angles. I was very fortunate the ball kicked away.’’
There are 161 games left. But for now, the offense looks fine and Youkilis doesn’t have to defend the lineup.
“Personally we all have faith in ourselves and we know we have a good hitting team,’’ Youkilis said. “We showed tonight that we could put together some good at-bats and we didn’t give up. I was very impressed with a lot of guys battling.’’