Youkilis' instincts help quiet Rays rally
Infielder's fake to first base fools Upton, sparking out at second
BOSTON -- The Rays had jumped out to a five-run lead, but that didn't stop Kevin Youkilis and the rest of the Red Sox from doing their best to keep the deficit at a minimum.
In what would eventually be a 9-1 Rays win over the Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday, Youkilis produced the defensive play of the game, helping to keep Tampa Bay off the scoreboard in the fifth inning.
With B.J. Upton at first following a leadoff single, the Red Sox's infield made its normal shift toward right field to defend lefty-swinging first baseman Carlos Pena's pull-hitting attack. The shift always leaves a rather large opening down the left side of the infield, and Pena decided to take advantage by dropping a bunt down the third-base line.
Youkilis was ready.
Playing more toward a normal shortstop position, Youkilis -- the third baseman -- nabbed the ball and realized he had little chance of throwing out Pena at first.
Youkilis scooped the ball, faked a throw to first baseman Mark Kotsay and tossed the ball to shortstop Alex Cora at second base.
"He was just anticipating," Cora said. "There was no play at first."
Upton, who rounded second anticipating the throw, was a sitting duck.
"If he throws that ball, I get into third -- easy," said Upton, who went 2-for-5 with a three-run homer. "And I had an idea that he wasn't going to throw it. I just came around the bag, maybe a step around the bag, and lost my footing."
It wasn't a play the Red Sox practice or normally perform. It was merely Youkilis making something out of nothing.
Not bad for a guy who won an AL Gold Glove Award last season -- at first base.
"It's just instincts," Cora said. "That's all Kevin Youkilis right there. There's not too many third basemen that will make that play, and there's not many first basemen that will make that play at third."
It was a play that ultimately had little bearing on the outcome of the contest. The Sox lost by eight runs, and they trail in the series, 2-1.
But there's a chance that if such a situation occurs again in this series, the Rays just might think twice about being so aggressive.
"He was just thinking ahead," Cora said, "and Youkilis does a great job of doing that."
Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.