Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Game 94: Kevin Youkilis is in a Slump

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 5, Kansas City Royals 6

More than the fifth wretched Tavarez appearance in a row (the specter of Lester is rising, Julian), more than the blown lead in the fifth that saw KC answer a Boston set of four with four of their own, this game was about one thing: Coco Crisp smacking a triple in the bottom of the eighth that missed a home run (and the glove of an inexperienced Mark Teahen) to tie the game by a foot and a half, then Julio Lugo flying out to end the inning and stranding Crisp on third.

This statement is not meant to be an indictment of Lugo - for once - as the slow-starting shortstop is currently the hottest hitter on the Sox, with eleven singles, two doubles and a home run over his last 26 at-bats, but a statement about the state of the team. As Robin reminded us yesterday, low-hanging fruit like the Royals is an opportunity for easy pickings, not bashing yourself in the head with eighteen men left on base over two games. The Yankee threat looms large and the complacency I mentioned after the first game is a killer.

I do wonder how much of the lost spark stems from Youkilis's post-All Star Game slump, which continued this evening with an 0 for 3 with a walk. Since the restarted last week, Youkilis is batting .150, with four walks and six strikeouts over 23 at-bats. It's an upsetting situation, for while Youkilis has struck out and walked about equally all season, he's not only on pace to have his best season yet, but has been the redeeming life of the lineup all year. Tonight there were times where he looked lost (his lone strikeout) and other times he got unlucky (a hot shot handled by Mark Grudzielanek at second), but nothing indicative of the hoped-for breakout. Seeing the Red Sox play under .500 in seven games since the All-Star break and lose three of those games by one run while Youkilis falters calls to mind potential correlations that I'd really rather not see.