Return of Youkilis Could Spark Red Sox Into Postseason

Return of Youkilis Could Spark Red Sox Into Postseason Remember that summer back in 2009 when Kevin Youkilis single-handedly carried the Red Sox into the playoffs?

OK, maybe that won't be a topic of conversation over a few Narragansetts at your 2020 Fourth of July barbecue, but who's to say it can't happen?

As it turns out, Youkilis' mound charge against Rick Porcello and the Tigers didn't exactly light a fire in the clubhouse or dugout like, say, a Milan Lucic onslaught of right hooks would the B's bench at the Garden. However, Youk's return from that minor brouhaha may just give the local nine the kick in the pants they need.

Fans and members of the media alike are agreeing that this team is
lacking the pizazz and heart of the championship teams of '04 and '07, and by the looks of its play as of late, these criticisms could be correct. Simply put, Boston isn't playing the same baseball it was playing just two months ago.

Before the entire Red Sox Nation lines up for a one-way trip off the Tobin, there appears to be one last chance for the Sox, and it rests on the shoulders of Youk — who completed his five-game suspension and is slated to return to the lineup Tuesday.

The Red Sox enter Tuesday's matchup one full game behind Texas for the wild-card lead after dropping three of five games without Youk, but with the day off on Monday and a 10-game homestand on the horizon, the stars are aligned for a promising Boston comeback.

And it all starts in Ontario's capital.

Boston is just 5-4 in nine games against the Jays this season and a mere 2-4 at the Rogers Centre, but the Red Sox are throwing a pair of aces into the mix during this three-game set in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Toronto's ace and annual Cy Young candidate Roy Halladay will toe the rubber in the middle game, but Doc is just 2-2 in his last five home starts and is 13-12 in his career against the Sox.

Taking the bump against Halladay will be Clay Buchholz, who has not only looked solid in his last two starts (three earned runs in 13 combined innings), but Buch's lone win of the season came against the Jays at the 'Rog. Will Buchholz give Halladay and the Jays a NESN Classic? Perhaps not, but don't be surprised if the kid posts another quality start. Despite being 1-2 so far in his young career at the Rogers Centre, Buchholz has a 2.93 ERA in three starts north of the border, holding the Jays to a .250 batting average while striking out 15 batters in 15 1/3 innings.

So where does Youk come into this Red Sox late-summer revival?

Here's where: This season, Youk is hitting .367 with three homers, seven runs and five RBIs in eight games against the Blue Jays. He's had tremendous success in 2009 against all three Jays starters slated to start in this series as well:

  • Against Ricky Romero: 2-for-4, two homers, three RBIs, .2.667OPS.
  • Against Halladay: 2-for-4, double, 1.250 OPS
  • Against Brett Cecil: 2-for-3, 1.333 OPS.

Following the Blue Jays series, Boston welcomes the Yankees to town for a three-game set at Fenway Park, where Boston is 38-18 on the season and 6-0 against the Pinstripes. In 11 games against the first-place Bronx Bombers this season, Youk is hitting .316 with two long balls, three RBIs, eight runs scored and a .980 OPS. 

When the Yankees leave town after Sunday night's game on Aug. 23, the White Sox will take refuge in Fenway's third-base dugout. Boston has yet to play the Pale Hosers in 2009, but Youk found a fair amount of success in four games against Ozzie Guillen's crew in 2008, hitting .313 with three RBIs, one double and two runs scored.

Should Boston — led by their cleanup hitter and emotional leader — take the next three series, it could be just the confidence they need heading into a tight September race with the surging Rangers for the wild card. A late charge may even spell trouble for the Yankees, who at seven games up in the AL East, aren't entirely out of reach for the Division crown.

Can a single player carry an entire team into the postseason? Of course.

Will Youkilis answer the call? Perhaps.

Will he try that bald, sweaty head off with just over a month to go in the season? You bet he will.

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