Kevin Youkilis has become quite the fan favorite since joining the Chicago White Sox and it's not hard to see why.
The White Sox will try to head into the All-Star break with six straight wins and a three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.
Chicago moved 10 games above .500 for the first time since October 2010 with a 2-0 win over Toronto on Saturday. Youkilis hit a two-run homer and Gavin Floyd scattered four hits in 7 2-3 innings.The White Sox (47-37) have won five straight and nine of 11, with Youkilis coming up with the big hit in nearly all of those victories. He has 13 RBIs in 12 games with Chicago and has driven in the go-ahead run five times while hearing the familiar "Yooouk" salute from the crowd that was once a fixture at Fenway Park. "It's hard to say you expect it, but you like having guys on base and you like him in tough situations because he just continues to find the right pitch and just battle," manager Robin Ventura said.
Youkilis was hitting .233 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 42 games with Boston before being traded June 24. A change of scenery and playing regularly seems to be helping Youkilis, who is batting .311 with three homers for his new team.
"You can be popular one week then a bomb the next," Youkilis said. "The game is crazy and you just have to keep grinding it out. You can't get too high, you can't get too low, you just try to stay in the middle."
He'll try to help the AL Central leaders extend their seven-game home winning streak - their longest since a 12-game run in 2010. Besides clutch hitting from Youkilis, the White Sox are also receiving strong pitching at home from their starters, a group that has a 1.61 ERA over the last 10 games at U.S. Cellular Field.
They've certainly frustrated the Blue Jays (42-43) this weekend. Rajai Davis grounded into his second double play of the series Saturday and Jose Bautista was called out after trying to stretch a double into a triple in the ninth inning.
Brett Lawrie , who also grounded into a double play Saturday, left with lower back tightness in the sixth. Manager John Farrell said Lawrie is questionable Sunday, but the 22-year-old said he expects to play."One spot in my back is just kinda tight," Lawrie said. "I thought the best thing to do was get out of there and not make it worse."
Brett Cecil (2-1, 5.64 ERA) will try to end Toronto's three-game losing streak and four-game skid on the road.
Cecil bounced back from an ugly start against the Los Angeles Angels on June 28 with a more effective one versus Kansas City on Tuesday.
After allowing eight runs and 10 hits, including three homers, over 5 1-3 innings against the Angels, the left-hander gave up three runs and five hits over six frames of a 6-3 win over the Royals.
Youkilis is 4 for 10 with a home run and a double against Cecil.
The White Sox will send Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 4.91) to the mound to close out the first half.
Axelrod went 5 2-3 innings against Texas on Wednesday, allowing four runs and seven hits in a 5-4, 10-inning win. Chicago has won his last three starts.
In his only appearance against the Blue Jays, the right-hander threw six scoreless innings last September, surrendering three hits while striking out six in a 4-3 victory.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|July 07, 2012||Brett Lawrie||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back tightness|
|June 16, 2012||Drew Hutchison||60-Day DL||Right UCL sprain|
|June 14, 2012||Kyle Drabek||15-Day DL||Sprained right elbow ligament|
|June 14, 2012||Kyle Drabek||60-Day DL||Torn right elbow ligament|
|June 13, 2012||Brandon Morrow||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|June 12, 2012||Brandon Morrow||Day-to-Day||Strained left oblique|
|Chicago White Sox|
|June 29, 2012||Brian Bruney||15-Day DL||Left hip inflammation|
|June 29, 2012||Kevin Youkilis||Day-to-Day||Left game - upset stomach|
|June 24, 2012||Jesse Crain||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 17, 2012||Philip Humber||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
|June 13, 2012||Adam Dunn||Day-to-Day||Sprained ankle|
|June 04, 2012||Kosuke Fukudome||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
CHICAGO (AP) -- The Toronto Blue Jays got the ball up in the air and then they got out of town with a good feeling in the last game before the All-Star break.
The Blue Jays, who'd lost 8 of their previous 12, hit four homers Sunday to end the Chicago White Sox's five-game winning streak with an 11-9 victory.
Colby Rasmus and Edwin Encarnacion had two-run homers in the first and Kelly Johnson and Jeff Mathis also connected on a windy day at U.S. Cellular Field when Chicago pitching yielded nine walks
"We had a very good offensive day. High number of walks," manager John Farrell said as his team headed for four days off with a 43-43 record.
"First inning we put together, both Colby, who continues to swing the bat well, Eddie with another big home run for us. We needed every run we could put on the board the way this turned out."
The first-place White Sox got a three-run homer from Alex Rios and kept pecking away, but couldn't overcome the four-run first-inning deficit and go the All-Star break with a 47-38 record and a three-game lead in the AL Central.
Chicago manager Robin Ventura was ejected in the top of the ninth after charging to the plate to heatedly argue a ball and strike call with home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn.
"Yeah he had to let him know. Had to let him know," Rios said of Ventura's ejection. Ventura had argued in the sixth when Jose Bautista hit a ball past third that was touched by a fan for a ground rule double. Umpires ruled that a running Rasmus, who'd been on first, was allowed to score on the play.
Ventura was not available to comment after the game because he had to catch a flight for the break - something that was announced before the game.
Jason Frasor (1-1), the third of five Blue Jays' relievers, was credited with the win and Casey Janssen pitched the final 1 2-3 innings for his 12th save in 13 chances. He gave up two ninth-inning singles before striking out Alejandro De Aza to end it.
"I was just telling the trainers, five outs seems like forever. I got used to getting three. It was all right," Janssen said.
"I've obviously done it before in my career, it was just a little different than the last month or so."
Rasmus and Edwin Encarnacion had two-run homers following walks in the first off Dylan Axelrod and Kelly Johnson and Jeff Mathis also connected for Toronto on a windy day at U.S. Cellular Field.
"It's nice when we can swing and outslug the opponents, but it's tough to do that every day," said Toronto's Rajai Davis , who had three stolen bases. " We're looking forward to getting it done on defense and having a better second half."
Axelrod (0-2) was working on just three days rest. It would have been Chris Sale 's turn in the rotation, but the White Sox decided to skip their ace lefty's last start before the break and he is expected to throw an inning in Tuesday night's All-Star game
Axelrod gave up six hits, including three homers, and seven runs in his three innings before Mathis greeted reliever Brian Omogrosso with a solo homer in the fourth, making it 8-3.
"You just got to get ground balls. I got behind in some counts and grooved some balls over the plate. And that's what good hitters do," Axelrod said.
Adam Dunn 's RBI fielder's choice grounder and an RBI double by Rios - right after an error on Vizquel at third - finished starter Brett Cecil after 4 1-3 innings and cut Toronto's lead to 8-5. Alexei Ramirez then hit reliever Jesse Chavez 's first pitch for a two-run triple, slicing the lead to 8-7.
But Davis walked in the sixth, stole second and third and scored on Leyson Septimo 's wild pitch to put Toronto up by two. After another walk to Rasmus, Bautista hit a ball past third that was ruled fair and a fan reached out and touched it, making it a ground rule double. But umpires allowed Rasmus to score from first on the play, despite an argument from Ventura. After another walk, Adam Lind doubled home the Blue Jays' 11th run.
Cecil gave up six hits and seven runs, six of them earned. Reliever Luis Perez departed in the seventh after giving up hits to the first two batters and walked off the mound with a trainer. Farrell said Perez has tightness in his elbow, will go the disabled list and be evaluated further.
Frasor came on and gave up a sacrifice fly and intentional walk before retiring the side with two strikeouts.
Notes: White Sox RHP Jake Peavy was named as a late injury replacement to the All-Star team for the Angels' C.J. Wilson. Peavy had lost out in the Final Vote balloting earlier in the week to Texas' Yu Darvish .Rios tied a career high with his four RBIs. .... Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie sat out with a tight back, a condition that forced him to leave Saturday's game. ... Kevin Youkilis had an RBI double in the sixth, giving him 14 RBIs in his first 13 games with Chicago. ... After the game the White Sox optioned right-hander Duente Heath back to Triple-A Charlotte. He did not appear in a game since being recalled July 4.