Kevin Youkilis Hopes to Return for Wednesday’s Series Finale

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Kevin Youkilis Hopes to Return for Wednesday's Series Finale Postgame, Rays 3-2: Words from Kevin Youkilis that have to make any Red Sox fan feel a bit better: "By tomorrow I should feel pretty good and be ready to rock." Phew.

The Sox may have dodged a major bullet. There has to be a tipping point to all these injuries and if Youkilis had been lost for any significant period of time that might've been it.

We will await the lineup card before Wednesday's game and give you all the other updates from The Trop prior to the series finale.

It'll be a tough test for Boston, which faces All-Star lefty David Price. Tim Wakefield goes for the Sox, looking to improve on a 20-5 mark against Tampa Bay.

First pitch is 7:10 p.m.

Final, Rays 3-2: This one hurts, but it will be that much more painful if the Kevin Youkilis "right ankle pain" is anything worse than that. As it stands, the Sox are now 6-7 since their 8-1 homestand against NL teams and have lost three in a row for the first time since mid-May.

In case you missed the ninth, there was some drama. Eric Patterson tripled in a run with two outs off Rays closer Rafael Soriano and then David Ortiz was intentionally walked for the third straight time, giving Niuman Romero another chance to be the hero.

Romero grounded to second, finishing Tampa Bay's sixth win in seven games.

Back in a bit to sum things up.

End 8th, Rays 3-1: Robert Manuel gets a strikeout to leave runners at first and third in the eighth. Unless they rally, the Sox will have lost three straight for the first time since May 15-17.

10:13 p.m.: Apparently that time off to rest his sore back didn't do much for Hideki Okajima's command issues.

Pitching for the first time since June 29, Okie leaves a ball up in the zone that Carl Crawford pounces on for a solo shot to start the eighth.

A walk and a single with two outs ends the outing for Okajima. Robert Manuel is coming on with runners on the corners and two outs. 

Mid 8th, Rays 2-1: The Red Sox will be down to their last three outs after another shutdown performance by Joaquin Benoit, who is emerging as a major factor in this AL East race.

Benoit's ERA is down to 0.70 after a 1-2-3 inning.

End 7th, Rays 2-1: As he has done often of late, Scott Atchison gets the job done in the seventh. He retires the Rays in order, getting B.J. Upton with a strikeout to end it.

Mid 7th, Rays 2-1: It was unorthodox, to say the least, when Rays manager Joe Maddon chose to walk David Ortiz with a man already on first, pushing the tying run into scoring position with two outs in the seventh. With Niuman Romero on deck as opposed to Kevin Youkilis, hard to argue with the logic.

With two on, Romero grounds out to end the threat. This situation may present itself again in the ninth. We will see.

End 6th, Rays 2-1: With the bases loaded and just one out the Rays appeared primed to break this one open. Instead, it is dangling there as one of those potential character-building kind of games for the Sox, if they do in fact rally.

Scott Atchison got Sean Rodriguez to fly to right to strand three in the sixth.

Shows what I know about Jeff Niemann. I figured he had another inning in him but Dan Wheeler is on in relief to begin the seventh.

9:20 p.m.: Three walks and a single for the Rays in the sixth have chased Felix Doubront, but have not been enough for a run. Evan Longoria was picked off third base by catcher Kevin Cash for the second out of the frame, a play that will loom extremely large if the Sox get out of this mess and end up taking the lead.

Doubront is done after 5 2/3 solid innings. Scott Atchison is on with the bases loaded and two outs and Sean Rodriguez up.

9:08 p.m.: Right ankle pain is the official diagnosis for Kevin Youkilis. We will find out what that really means in terms of whether or not he needs any time off a little later on. There will likely be a battery of tests performed Wednesday.

Mid 6th, Rays 2-1: Off the bat it looked as if Bill Hall would get one into the gap in left-center field and with Daniel Nava running at first it was an easy run. Alas, the ball hung up just enough for B.J. Upton to track it down and get Jeff Niemann through another inning.

Niemann has thrown 107 pitches but he is not done. Remember, the Rays' bullpen needed to eat up six innings Monday night after Matt Garza's poor performance. They need Niemann to get a few more outs.

End 5th, Rays 2-1: Leadoff triples usually lead to runs. Such was the case for the Rays in the fifth. Sean Rodriguez had the triple and scored on a John Jaso RBI groundout.

Felix Doubront is on the wrong side of the score but has pitched very well. And he has done so rather economically, significant with the way the Boston bullpen is looking these days.

Doubront has thrown 76 pitches.

Mid 5th, 1-1: Pitch to David Ortiz with first base open and two outs, or perhaps take your chances with Niuman Romero. Not a very difficult decision for the Rays, and one that pays off in the fifth. Sure would've been nice to see Kevin Youkilis up in that spot. Oh, right, he's hurt.

With Marco Scutaro on second and two gone, Ortiz was given the free pass and Romero flew to left in his first official at bat with the Sox.

It's roughly 30 minutes from the removal of Youkilis and his lack of presence is already hurting big time.

End 4th, 1-1: If you are looking for something to feel good about, just think back to what Terry Francona recently said when asked if this season felt anything like 2006, when the Sox suffered a bunch of injuries and fell out of contention.

Francona said it is not nearly the same because in '06 all the injuries occurred to pitchers, forcing the club to visit and revisit the scrap heap for some less-than-memorable starters.

But when the only "regulars" in the lineup are newcomers Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre and perennial 125-game man J.D. Drew, something is going horribly wrong.

Mid 4th, 1-1: An error by Evan Longoria allows J.D. Drew to reach and Daniel Nava drives him in with another two-out hit. As nice as that is to Red Sox fans, most of you are likely nervously awaiting word on the status of Kevin Youkilis.

We will obviously get you the news when we hear. It may be just a cramp for Youk. Whatever it is, it leaves the Sox with a lineup you never thought you would see.

Niuman Romero stays in the game at first base and is in the cleanup spot. Eric Patterson in center, Bill Hall at second, Kevin Cash catching, Felix Doubront pitching.

8:17 p.m.: The Red Sox' run of injuries continues! Kevin Youkilis has left the game before his at bat in the fourth with an apparent right foot or calf injury. As one of Wyatt Earp's men said before Earp went off to duel Johnny Ringo, "I ain't got the words."

Niuman Romero has taken Youkilis's spot in the lineup.

End 3rd, Rays 1-0: It's been the third inning which has hurt Felix Doubront in his first two major league starts. This time around, John Jaso and Jason Bartlett combine to do some damage.

Jaso singled to lead things off and moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch. Bartlett followed with a hard shot that skipped past the glove of Marco Scutaro and just like that the Rays had the lead.

Mid 3rd, 0-0: When you walk Kevin Cash on four pitches you're asking for trouble. Jeff Niemann did just that, missing with four straight fastballs to the light-hitting backstop.

When Niemann followed it up with a walk to Marco Scutaro the Sox had designs on putting up a crooked number. The big righty (and he is big — he nearly knocked me over in the Rays' clubhouse last week) rebounded to fan Eric Patterson and get David Ortiz on a fly to left.

You hear so much talk of the Red Sox' injury woes and whether they will survive. Few people seem to be mentioning the fact that they are in game No. 2 of a stretch that will see them play 26 out of 37 games on the road.

With a host of replacements getting everyday duty during the most challenging portion of the schedule, there could be some rough times ahead.

End 2nd, 0-0: After walking his former manager in Gabe Kapler, Felix Doubront gets his first strikeout and then induces an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

It's not a surprise with the way he has handled everything so far, but Doubront is unfazed by being dropped into a tough assignment on the road.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: The fastball from Jeff Niemann was a bit too much for the Red Sox to handle in the second. J.D. Drew swung through a 91 mph heater for the second out and Daniel Nava was behind a 92 mph offering to end it.

Boston has been held scoreless in 17 of its last 20 innings.

End 1st, 0-0: Nothing like winning a long battle with a guy like Carl Crawford to get your confidence going. Felix Doubront needs 10 pitches but finally gets Crawford to fly to center for the second out of the first.

Evan Longoria followed with a double down the left-field line but Willy Aybar flew to right and Doubront is through the first inning of his second start.

Mid 1st, 0-0: Jeff Niemann allowed six runs in three innings in his first start against the Sox early last year. He's a different pitcher now.

Despite a one-out double from David Ortiz, Niemann gets through the first without an issue and has now allowed two runs in eight innings against Boston since that ugly debut.

No word yet on if Ortiz is going to enter the Doubles Derby at the All-Star Game festivities.

7:06 p.m.: When you watch Felix Doubront on the mound at The Trop, keep in mind my favorite statistic: in 74 2/3 innings between the majors and minors this year, the 22-year-old has yet to allow a home run.

Doubront also had a six-inning start to end last year without giving up a home run and tossed seven scoreless innings with the big club during spring training.

Also, the line after his major league debut last month reads a bit rougher than it was. He retired the first six men he faced and then had a rough third inning during which the Sox committed two errors to help the Dodgers score three times.

Doubront rebounded to retire the side in order in the fourth and worked out of a jam in the fifth by striking out Andre Ethier with two on. He then had to wait through a seven-run rally for the Red Sox and was unable to get it going in the sixth after sitting on the bench for so long. He told reporters following the game that the delay hurt him, and it showed when he allowed the first four to reach in the sixth.

6:45 p.m.: In All-Star news, David Ortiz has made his announcement regarding the Home Run Derby, and Kevin Youkilis continues to engage in back-and-forth campaign with Nick Swisher for that final spot on the AL roster.

Frankly, there is no reason in my opinion why Youkilis should not be on the squad anyway. He's one of the top 15 players in the AL on a yearly basis. Again, that's just my opinion. Your vote can count on that end.

As for Ortiz, there will be schools of thought lining up to debate whether it will ruin his swing or not. I say go for it. He's 34, in the last year of his contract (unless a club option is taken) and may not get this opportunity again.

5:59 p.m.: Josh Beckett threw 65 pitches in a simulated game at Tropicana Field on Tuesday afternoon, telling reporters after that he felt great. With all the talk of what the Sox are going to do to improve at the trading deadline, they figure to have a host of established stars returning at that time, Beckett being one of them.

The righty will likely make a minor league rehab start in five days and then maybe another before joining the rotation in late July, if all goes well.

As for those potential moves, we get word from Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe that Michael Bowden has been moved to the bullpen at Pawtucket, seemingly in preparation for him joining the Boston pen in the near future.

Bowden was 1-0 with a 6.92 ERA in seven games as a reliever with the Sox last year.

In other news, there is an outside chance that Jacoby Ellsbury will join the club when it heads to Toronto this weekend, but only to resume some baseball activities. His return remains a long time off. Also, Jeremy Hermida took live BP and is not far from starting a rehab stint of his own.

Finally, Hideki Okajima, who has not pitched since June 29 due to a sore back, may still not be available. It's a pretty beleaguered pen right now, and although Okajima has struggled this year, that's simply one less option for Terry Francona.

Here is the Rays lineup against youngster Felix Doubront.

B.J. Upton, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Willy Aybar, RF
Gabe Kapler, RF
Carlos Pena, 1B
Sean Rodriguez, 2B
John Jaso, C
Jason Bartlett, SS

4:12 p.m.: OK, yours truly is back after some time off to visit family in northern Minnesota, a trip which included a Rays-Twins game at Target Field. Taken in from the upper deck in right field, that game was the first in three straight wins for Tampa Bay and it was clear the Rays had put behind them the struggles of interleague play.

Entering Tuesday's affair with the Sox, Tampa Bay not only is back in second place but it has an advantage in the pitching matchup. Jeff Niemann has been solid all year and Felix Doubront will be on a major league mound for just the second time.

That's not to say Doubront cannot be successful. He seemed in control of his emotions in his major league debut last month and his pitching line looked a bit worse than he actually performed. In addition, the 22-year-old looked very good against the Rays in spring training.

Anyway, here is the Red Sox lineup against Niemann:

Marco Scutaro, SS
Eric Patterson, CF
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Adrian Beltre, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Daniel Nava, LF
Bill Hall, 2B
Kevin Cash, C

Back in a bit with a few more updates.

8 a.m.:Young lefty Felix Doubront gets his second start for the Red Sox when he goes against the Tampa Bay Rays in the second of three straight at Tropicana Field on Tuesday.

Doubront, 22, takes the place of the injured Clay Buchholz, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain. Doubront won his major league debut last month when he filled in for Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Speaking of Matsuzaka, he had another lackluster outing in a 6-5 loss to the Rays in Monday's opener. It gave Tampa Bay two straight wins over Boston and allowed the Rays to leapfrog the Sox in the division.

Jeff Niemann makes his fifth bid for a seventh win when he toes the slab for Tampa Bay on Tuesday. First pitch is 7:10 p.m.

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