By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Kevin Youkilis had been hitless in his previous 15 at-bats at Tropicana Field when he walked to the plate in the seventh inning Wednesday night.
Dustin Pedroia had tripled before him and Adrian Gonzalez was intentionally walked, setting the stage for Youkilis to make amends.
Facing Rays righthander Jeremy Hellickson, Youkilis "told myself to sit back and if he threw me a fastball, I was going to
turn on it and try to hit a ball to the outfield.
"I got a fastball again and I was fortunate to get a good piece of it and get it out of here."
Youkilis's homer went to left and emptied the bases. The runs would be the only runs of the night for either team, and the support was enough to get Josh Beckett a win.
It was even more gratifying to Youkilis that the Rays had walked Gonzalez in front of him.
"Oh yeah," he said. "It's not like they don't have respect for you or anything. It's just that the guy in front of you is hitting .350 and leading the league in RBI. You understand it, but I love the opportunity to go up there and help my team win."
It was Youkilis's 10th homer of the season and gave him 12 RBI in his last nine games.
Youkilis factored into another key part of the game, too -- on defense.
With two out in the third, Beckett threw Reid Brignac a changeup in the dirt. Somehow, Brignac golfed it to third, but Youkilis, swung around toward second on a lefthanded hitter, had to scurry just to field the slow roller.
Once he did, Brignac was well on his way to first. Youkilis made a throw to first, but it skipped and Gonzalez couldn't
dig it out cleanly.
"He got out of the box pretty quick," said Youkilis of Brignac. "Looking back now, if I had been playing in a whole different area, maybe (we could have gotten him). But I was over-shifted.''
After three days off, Jed Lowrie returned to the lineup Wednesay night, having gotten some rest for his left shoulder.
"It's not pain-free,'' said Lowrie of the shoulder, "but we're working on getting the strength back up and getting it feeling better, knowing that with the MRI results, it's just a matter of getting the strength and flexibility back.''
Lowrie was out of the lineup Sunday in Toronto, enjoyed the off-day in the schedule Monday and then was off again Tuesday. He's unsure how much rest he's going to need going forward.
"I think it's a day-by-day thing,'' he said. "If we continue to progress and know that as long as we stay on top of it, it will get better.''
Lowrie described the issue as "general tightness, weakness -- just what you'd expect after a collision.''
Lowrie collided with outfielder Mike Cameron 2 12 weeks ago in Detroit, the start of his problems.
"As far the symptoms, it is getting better,'' he said. "We're using every resource we have available to get it better.''
The Sox are still more than 10 days away from playing road interleague games, when they'll lose the use of the DH.
The schedule calls for the Sox to play nine straight in NL parks -- three in Pittsburgh, three in Philadelphia and three in Houston -- during which time they'll not have a spot for David Ortiz, who leads the team in, among other categories, homers and slugging percentage.
"This is hard...this is unfair,'' said Terry Francona. "We're going to go nine straight days (without use of Ortiz). In the past with Mikey Lowell, (Kevin Youkilis) and David, it was an obvious fix -- each guy played two (of every three games). Right now, it's not so obvious. It's going to be hard.''
Asked his thoughts on the proposed realignment plan which would eliminate divisions, award playoff spots to the top five teams in each league, shift an NL team to the AL and return to a balanced schedule, Francona said: "I love the idea of a balanced schedule. And the more teams they want to add to the playoffs, I'm all for.''