Youkilis achieves rare feat
Streaking slugger belts inside-the-park homer against Tribe
BOSTON -- As he desperately gasped for his breath in the dugout following the Red Sox's first inside-the-park homer in nearly two years, Kevin Youkilis leaned over on the padded bench and took a quick nap.
The rest lasted just mere seconds, significantly shorter than the time it took him to race around the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning for his first such career home run.
"Oh, God, that was tough," Youkilis said after his homer provided valuable insurance in Boston's 5-3 win over Cleveland on Monday. "That was like what you go through in the offseason when you go through conditioning and sprints and long sprints and get your heart rate up. I definitely got my conditioning in today and now I'm going to go home and try to relax."
Youkilis drilled a 2-1 fastball from reliever Roberto Hernandez to the right side of the center-field triangle. The ball glanced off the wall and away from Grady Sizemore. It was Trot Nixon who came over from right field to field the ball and threw it back to the infield, but far too late for a relay to get Youkilis at the plate.
"Out of the box I was running good because I thought I hit it in the gap and in that corner, you never know what's going to happen," Youkilis said. "So, I was thinking maybe three [bases] and then saw it hit off the wall and picked it up a notch. I picked up [third-base coach] Demarlo [Hale] and saw it kick and picked up Demarlo [again] and went from there."
"He hit it to the one part of the ball park and he hit it really well but it carried away from Sizemore, enough where he can't catch it, but not too much where it bounces out," added Sox manager Terry Francona. "You know what? He runs out of the batter's box every time. Sometimes you get rewarded for that. It ends up not being a triple, but a home run. That was a big run."
Inside-the-park homers are rare enough, but when there's not even a play at the plate, that is one for the memory banks.
The irony was too rich. It was Nixon, playing his first game at Fenway as a visitor, who hit the last inside-the-park homer for the Red Sox on July 15, 2005, against the Yankees.
That wasn't the only irony on this night full of such moments. Less than 24 hours earlier, on the plane back from a three-game sweep of the Rangers in Texas, it was Youkilis who was getting into a fun-filled give-and-take with Dustin Pedroia about who was faster.
"I was just laughing, because I knew it hit off the wall pretty good and I knew he was going to score," said Pedroia. "It was just funny watching him run."
So, when Youkilis came back to the bench, he had plenty to talk and laugh about with the rookie second baseman.
Not to be outdone, Pedroia laced his second double of the night to right-center in the eighth.
"He says he's faster than me," said Youkilis. "He really thinks he's faster than me. He's going out and saying he's faster, and I don't know if anybody saw, but he hit a ball to right-center field that Trot Nixon was running after and he barely got to second base. I'd definitely would've been on third base. No doubt."
But Pedroia knew deep down that this night belonged to his first baseman.
"Yeah, tonight he did," Pedroia conceded of his personal battle with his teammate. "My legs were sore."
All that was left was for Youkilis to go home and get more than just a nap. After Monday night's feat, he earned a good night's sleep.
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.