The Wednesday Takeaway
Seeking an urgent upgrade at third base, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams rolled the dice on Kevin Youkilis, believing that all the former Red Sox infielder needed to get going again was a change of scenery. If the past two days are any indication, Williams was right.
After a 3-for-6 effort with a two-run homer off Roy Oswalt in Chicago’s 19-2 drubbing of the Rangers on Tuesday, Youkilis sent the U.S. Cellular Field crowd home happy with a walk-off single in the 10th inning of last night’s 5-4 victory. He has settled right in to the number-two spot of Robin Ventura’s lineup, and—in his first two games on the South Side—made an excellent first impression on his new fan base.
With the win, the White Sox improved to 44-37 on the season and evened their home record up at 21-21. This afternoon (2:10 p.m ET), they will try to tackle another troublesome split—their 8-13 mark against left-handed starters.
Texas has won each of Matt Harrison’s last eight starts, and the 26-year-old is 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA in six career tries versus Chicago. But Youkilis is 3-for-11 with a home run in their past meetings, and another strong performance would cement his status as a fan favorite.
Youkilis said after Wednesday’s win that “Things just keep going up and up.” As the White Sox go for what would be a statement sweep of a potential playoff opponent, they are already looking for their new third baseman to lead the way.
What to Watch for on Thursday
- Before the past week, outfielder Justin Ruggiano’s biggest claim to fame was serving as a fifth infielder for the Rays during the 2008 World Series. He was designated for assignment by Tampa Bay this past offseason, signed a minor-league deal with Houston, and then was traded to Miami in late-May when an injury bug ran through the Marlins roster. Now, suddenly, Ruggiano has homered in three straight games while compiling a 13-for-25 line over his last seven, an effort that earned him a start in the cleanup spot of Ozzie Guillen’s order last night. Brewers rookie Michael Fiers will be tasked with bringing him back down to earth in today’s matinee (2:10 p.m. ET).
- After their 6-4 loss to the Pirates on Wednesday, the Astros are 0-6 on their current road trip to Chicago and Pittsburgh, and a horrific 9-31 away from Minute Maid Park this season. Meanwhile, the Pirates have taken advantage of Houston’s plunge to regain first place in the NL Central. Garrett Jones is 8-for-12 with two doubles and two home runs over his last three games, and he’ll look to stay hot against Bud Norris as the Bucs try to apply the brooms (7:05 p.m. ET).
- There may be more intriguing storylines in the Cincinnati-San Diego game detailed next, but the most promising duel on paper takes place in the rubber match of the Phillies-Mets series at Citi Field. It’s Cole Hamels—who has beaten New York twice this season—versus R.A. Dickey, who held Philadelphia to one run in seven innings on April 13 and has not lost to a senior circuit opponent since April 30 (7:10 p.m. ET).
- Tonight’s pitching matchup at Petco Park features Mat Latos and Edinson Volquez, who were traded for each other this past offseason and will be facing their former teams for the first time. The Padres will try to prevent their former ace from becoming the first pitcher to throw three straight complete games since Cliff Lee—who won for the first time in 2012 on Wednesday—did it last June. Volquez, on the other hand, has not yet recorded an eighth-inning out this season (10:05 p.m. ET).