Youkilis benefiting from a change in Sox

CHICAGO -- Baseball didn’t feel the same to Kevin Youkilis during his final weeks with the Boston Red Sox.

Youkilis was struggling at the plate while his role with the club was diminishing. He was being called on less and less to be the Red Sox’s starting third baseman. In the end, the Red Sox felt it was best for both parties to move on.

Despite what his 2012 numbers may have projected, Youkilis never doubted he had plenty of good baseball left in him. When the Chicago White Sox traded for him June 24, the hope was a change of scenery would be what he needed to jump-start his play.

So far, so good.

While their relationship is still young, the White Sox have been good for Youkilis, and Youkilis has been good for the White Sox.

Youkilis came through with his biggest hit to date as a member of the White Sox, as he delivered a game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th inning to defeat the Texas Rangers 5-4 at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday night.

After Youkilis drove the ball to left field and teammate Alejandro De Aza sprinted to home plate from second base, the White Sox’s players ran out of the dugout and swarmed Youkilis at first base in celebration. Through it all, the White Sox’s fans chanted “Youk.”

“I’ve had fun,” said Youkilis, who has had five hits and five RBIs in the past two games against the Rangers. “Like I said, it’s a lot fun playing baseball again. It’s a good feeling to have. I’m just enjoying it.

“I hope it’s a great thing and things keep going up and up. I can’t answer and say this is the best change of scenery and all that. I think I had a little rut baseball-wise, statistically, a funk. Hopefully, this is a thing I can keep going forward and playing better.”

The way Youkilis came through in the clutch in the 10th inning was what Red Sox fans witnessed from him throughout his time in Boston. After falling behind 0-2 to Rangers reliever Mike Adams, Youkilis fouled off the next three pitches, took a ball, fouled off another pitch, took another ball and then connected with a fastball.

It was the type of at-bat White Sox manager Robin Ventura thinks represents what his new third baseman does best.

“I think for me you try to describe the importance of Youk coming over here,” Ventura said. “That at-bat really described it best. He’s 0-2. He’s grinding. It’s just continuous. That kind of stuff is infectious throughout a lineup for us.”

Youkilis’ game-winning hit stole the spotlight, but his defense was just as remarkable on Wednesday. It was especially on display in the fifth inning when he made a bare-handed scoop and throw to get Elvin Andrus and two batters later robbed Adrian Beltre of an infield single by handling a difficult chopper down the third-base line.

Ventura, a former third baseman, of course, loved it all.

“We can talk about that at-bat or a bunch of plays he made,” Ventura said. “Again, he brings another bit of energy to our team. Just the way he plays defense, I appreciate it because I know how difficult it is. The kind of plays he was making and the guys that hit it had speed, not easy plays. He pretty much did it all tonight.”