Thursday, April 20, 2006

You(k) Are So Beautiful

Games 14 & 15 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4
W: Timlin (2-0)
L: R. Lugo (0-1)
Sv: Papelbon (7)

Red Sox 9, Devil Rays 1
W: Schilling (4-0)
L: Waechter (0-1)

Record: 11-4

Kevin Youkilis' fame to date has largely derived from his Moneyball-inspired nickname, the Greek God of Walks, as author Michael Lewis used Youkilis as an example of the type of ballplayer lusted after by Oakland GM Billy Beane. Since the book's release, Youk's spent the better part of 2 seasons on the Boston/Pawtucket shuttle, mostly because he had Billy Mueller ahead of him at third, and the Sox wanted him to get as many opportunities to play as possible. Entering this season, he had a career OPS of close to .800 (and a World Series ring - c'mon, you didn't think we could go this long into the season without mention of 2004, did you?), despite his inconsistent playing opportunities.

After the first 15 games of the 2006 season, I think Youks deserves consideration for a new nickname. Like the Greek God of Being a Fucking Stud, or something equally literary and pithy.

After being handed the starting job at first base, all he's done is put up a .969 OPS (with a .448(!) OBP), filled in spectacularly in the leadoff role in Coco Crisp's absence, and flashed elite-caliber leather in a new position. His double drove in the winning runs in Tuesday's win over the Rays, and his homer to lead off the bottom of the 1st last night got the Sox jump-started to an easy win. He's 2nd on the Sox in RBI, batting average, and hits. All that, and his lumpy-headed, goofy-grinning charm fits perfectly with a team that's not necessarily a bunch of idiots, but sure seems to be looser than your average bears. I was unsure what to expect from Youks before the season began, but the early returns indicate that he'll be a critical component - and his work at the top of the order will give Terry Francona some decisions to make once Crisp returns from the DL.

Curt Schilling's solid performance last night, coupled with an offensive outburst, was critical in sparing the high-leverage elements of the bullpen after Tuesday's nail-biter. After Mike Timlin was uncharacteristically awful (vulturing his way to the win Matt Clement deserved), Jonathan Papelbon had his first really labored outing. The Rays battled the young righty better than any opponent to date, forcing the Sox' closer to throw 34 pitches to record the 3-run save. Only Adam Stern's sprawling (and ill-advised) effort to snare Damon Hollins' game-ending liner saved Paps from his first earned runs of the season. Sox management was so excited by Stern's play that they sent him down to Pawtucket after the game (to be fair, that was the plan from Day 1 this season).

Schilling's telling folks that he's not totally comfortable on the mound yet, which bodes ill for AL bats, since he's 4-0 with a 1.61 ERA, an 0.75 WHIP, and a .495 OPS against. Wake goes tonight against the Rays before Josh Beckett gets a chance to hold serve in his intramural battle with Schilling.

I spent yesterday in Atlanta, where the Mets/Braves series has people's attention, especially after the Mets' win in the first game. The Braves' subsequent 2 wins have the Dirty South repeating Ric Flair's mantra, "To be the man, you gotta beat the man". Haven't seen Whit's musings yet today, but I suspect he'll echo that sentiment.

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