Blue Jays-Red Sox Preview
Will Middlebrooks and the Red Sox will try to keep rolling without him Monday night as they open a three-game home series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Following the emergence of Middlebrooks, Youkilis found himself the odd man out in Boston's lineup. The Red Sox (38-34) addressed the situation Sunday, sending him to the Chicago White Sox for utilityman Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart.
With the trade nearly completed, Youkilis hit a run-scoring triple in the seventh inning of Sunday's 9-4 win over Atlanta and was lifted for a pinch-runner. He was hugged at the top of the dugout steps by his teammates and came out for a curtain call to acknowledge the standing ovation.
"It ended the right way," manager Bobby Valentine said. "It was the longest run to the dugout. ... I told the players what I was going to do and he did the rest."
Now the starting third base job unquestionably belongs to Middlebrooks, who is 10 for 16 with three homers and 10 RBIs in the first six games of this homestand.
He leads all AL rookies with nine homers and 34 RBIs this season.
"The way Middlebrooks was playing, he needs to be in the lineup every day," general manager Ben Cherington said. "Bobby's done a good job of shuffling."
Middlebrooks has been a big factor in Boston's recent surge. The Red Sox have won nine of 11 overall, including five of six at Fenway Park after entering this homestand with a 15-19 home record.
If Boston hopes to climb the AL East standings, it needs to play better against division opponents. The Red Sox are 11-15 against East rivals, including 3-3 against the Blue Jays, who fell into last place following a 9-0 loss at Miami on Sunday.
Toronto (37-35) had been going for a series sweep after winning the first two games by a combined 19-6.
The Blue Jays will now face Felix Doubront (8-3, 4.31 ERA) for the third time this season. Doubront is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in the first two, with the Red Sox winning both in Toronto.
The left-hander is looking to win his third straight start overall after beating the Marlins twice, giving up four runs in six innings of a 15-5 victory Wednesday. The ample run support was nothing new, as Doubront has gotten a major league-best 8.5 runs per nine innings.
He could get more with Toronto giving the ball to Henderson Alvarez (3-6, 4.30), who is looking for his first win in eight starts. He's 0-4 with a 6.26 ERA in his last seven, with the Blue Jays losing each and Alvarez allowing 63 hits and striking out just 13 over 41 2-3 innings.
Perhaps his worst start of the season came last Monday at Milwaukee, as Alvarez allowed six runs and 11 hits in a season-low four innings.
The right-hander has much better numbers against the Red Sox, posting a 2.45 ERA in three starts, but he gave up four runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings in losing the most recent one June 1.
Toronto makes its first 2012 visit to Fenway after losing six of its last eight there in 2011.