Kevin Youkilis drove a full-count pitch over Fenway Park’s famed left field wall, lowered his head and started to trot around the bases as fans loudly cheered ”Yooouk!”
The scene was familiar everywhere in the ballpark except the scoreboard, where Youkilis’ three-run shot was tallied for the visiting Chicago White Sox in a 7-5 win over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.
”You never know here, but it’s been great,” Youkilis said of his reception. ”Fans have treated me unbelievable and I can’t thank them enough for all the kind things they keep saying from the stands every day and every inning. Not too many opponents get to come in here and have that opportunity. Usually it’s a little more negative at the opposition.”
Youkilis isn’t just another former Red Sox. He was one of the most popular players on the club for years before the June 24 trade and two games into the Sox-Sox series in Boston, he’s still a fan favorite.
Youkilis had three hits the night before, but the Red Sox won the series opener 5-1. His eighth home run of the season was his only hit Tuesday and brought him up to 4 for 8 in the series with two doubles, a home run, three RBIs and four runs scored.
”Yeah, he’s just showing off, just rising to the occasion for us and being in big spots,” manager Robin Ventura said. ”I think there’s something when you get traded, there’s something to prove and that all goes into it with a lot of people that’s happened to. Coming back here, not that he says anything, but it’s nice for him to get in those situations and come through.”
The White Sox won for the eighth time in 11 games and are 10 games above .500 (50-40) for the fourth time this season.
Philip Humber (4-4) made his first start in a month and settled down after allowing two runs in a shaky first inning, when the Red Sox tagged him for three hits and two runs to tie it after Chicago went up 2-0 in the top of the first.
Humber had been on the disabled list as he recovered from a right elbow strain. Chicago activated him earlier Tuesday and he gave the White Sox six strong innings, scattering six hits, striking out three and not walking a batter before leaving the game after throwing 104 pitches.
”He comes back and was great. This was what we expect out of him in locating and keeping people off balance. That’s a tough lineup. They create a lot of problems,” Ventura said. ”He was getting ahead early and then locating in key counts and not really giving them a whole lot to swing at.”
Kelly Shoppach had a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the eighth for the Red Sox off Matt Thornton to pull Boston to 7-5, but closer Addison Reed came on in the ninth and picked up his 15th save.
Carl Crawford continued his strong start since joining the Red Sox on Monday after rehabilitating wrist and elbow injuries during the first half of the season. Crawford went 3 for 4, stole three bases and scored twice on Tuesday. In two games back, Crawford is 4 for 7 with four runs scored.
Jon Lester (6-6) had good velocity, but poor control from the start and threw 50 pitches in the first two innings. He threw 27 in the first when Youkilis walked and Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios followed with hits to put the White Sox up 2-0.
Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez hit RBI singles to tie it in the bottom of the first, but Chicago went up in the second with a run, then Youkilis blew it open in the fourth.
”It was a frustrating night for Jon,” Boston manager Bobby Valentine said. ”After he gave up the two in the first and we came back, he thought he’d be able to settle down and get us the victory. His control just wasn’t there.”
With two on and two outs, Youkilis hit a towering shot to left to put the White Sox up 6-2 in the fourth. Boston fans cheered ”Yooouk!” as he trotted around the bases, showing the former Red Sox third baseman will always be beloved in Boston. It was Youkilis’ fourth homer since being traded from to Chicago, tying his total with the Red Sox in 42 games this season.
Lester allowed six runs on seven hits over four innings.
”When the ball’s leaving my hand I’m not in the part of the zone that I need to be. I’m up a little bit,” Lester said. ”I don’t know what it is. I’ve just got to keep throwing the ball. It’ll turn.”
NOTES: An MRI showed no tear in David Ortiz’s right Achilles tendon, but the Boston slugger will have it looked at again and Boston will decide after the second opinion comes in whether to put Ortiz on the disabled list. Ortiz injured the tendon while rounding second on Gonzalez’s home run in the eighth on Monday. … Boston pitching coach Bob McClure said Franklin Morales will move back to the bullpen after making five starts for the short-handed Red Sox. … Youkilis hit 65 homers at Fenway as a member of the Red Sox. … The White Sox placed RHP Gavin Floyd on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow tendinitis, clearing the roster spot for Humber. … Chicago didn’t reach 50 wins until July 24 last season, when a victory over Detroit put the White Sox at 50-51.