The Boston bats have been awfully loud lately.
In the past 10 games, the Red Sox offense has produced 69 runs and the team is an impressive 7-3 over the stretch. So, the absence of a slow-starting Kevin Youkilis shouldn't have that great an impact on the league's best offense. Should it?
While Youkilis' .219 average and 20 strikeouts through 64 at-bats this season certainly wouldn't have a crowd chanting "M-V-P," the 33-year-old's presence in the middle of the Boston lineup is still important.
Youkilis has now missed three-consecutive games with what is being deemed as "back stiffness," by Red Sox staff. His impact on the team may not be quantified specifically through his subpar stat line thus far, but while Youkilis' presence in the Red Sox order may not be all that apparent, his absence is definitely noticeable.
Teams seem to take a different approach to the Red Sox lineup when "the Greek God of Walks" isn't in the batter's box working the count. And the results show.
In the three games since Youkilis was forced to the bench, Boston has scored just 15 runs. Now that may seem like a solid amount for most any team, but when considering that one of those outings was Monday's 11-run drudging of the A's things begin to seem a bit more bleak.
Boston struggled at the plate on Tuesday, managing just four hits and a single run through eight innings of the 5-3 loss. The ninth inning saw Boston put together a nice litte rally to score a pair, but it was the guy that didn't get to the plate that ultimately caused a stir.
With one out and a man on first and second, down by just two runs, manager Bobby Valentine called for Youkilis to get ready. Youkilis' presence at the top of the steps, along with a botched performance by A's closer Grant Balfour, forced former Red Sox and current Oakland pitching coach Curt Young to get another reliever on the mound.
Young just couldn't take the chance that Youkilis might step into the box and knock in the game-tying and potentially winning runs. Valentine's strategic play worked in the short term, but it was Young that ultimately won out in the end.
Valentine conceded after the game saying, "It was just kind of a decoy," having Youkilis out there. "Obviously, it didn't work did it?"
The glum manager wasn't upset by the failure of his bluff, rather it appeared he was more frustrated that his third baseman was unable to do more than merely instill fear in the opposition.
Youkilis could very well be out for a few more games, and that means that the Red Sox will need to find a suitable replacement for his presence and production in the lineup. Because as long as Youkilis is forced to ride the pine, a very vulnerable and noticeable hole in the Boston order will remain.
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