White Sox-Red Sox Preview
By MIKE LIPKA
(AP) -- The Fenway Park faithful showed plenty of appreciation for Kevin Youkilis when he left Boston and again when he returned to town with the Chicago White Sox this week.
It's quickly become clear, though, that he's not helping the home team anymore.
Youkilis looks to continue haunting his former Red Sox teammates on Wednesday night as the White Sox turn to left-hander Pedro Hernandez for his major league debut.
After struggling with Boston (46-45) in 2012 and losing the starting third base job to rookie Will Middlebrooks, Youkilis was traded to Chicago on June 24.
The change of scenery seems to have rejuvenated him. The veteran is batting .319 with 18 RBIs in 18 games since joining the White Sox, and has elevated his performance even more in his return to Fenway.
Youkilis got a standing ovation before his first at-bat Monday and has since gone 4 for 8 with three extra-base hits, including a three-run homer Tuesday in Chicago's 7-5 win, which evened the four-game set.
"He's just showing off, just rising to the occasion for us and being in big spots," manager Robin Ventura said. "I think there's something when you get traded, there's something to prove and that all goes into it with a lot of people that's happened to. Coming back here, not that he says anything, but it's nice for him to get in those situations and come through."
The first-place White Sox (50-40) are 12-6 with Youkilis in the lineup, averaging 5.5 runs in that stretch.
Their rotation has a few more question marks with John Danks still out and Gavin Floyd now on the disabled list, leading them to give Hernandez the ball for the first time.
The 23-year-old Hernandez was one of two prospects acquired from San Diego for Carlos Quentin on Dec. 31. He's 7-2 with a 2.90 ERA over two minor league stops this season.
"We go through spring training and he and (standout rookie Jose Quintana) were kind of in the same role," Ventura told the White Sox's official website. "So you're hoping to catch lightning twice."
It's possible Hernandez won't be in the majors long, with Floyd eligible to return from the DL in time for his next turn in the rotation.
He'll at least get an opportunity to face Venezuelan countryman and fellow left-hander Felix Doubront, who has a chance to become Boston's first 10-game winner.
The Red Sox have won nine of the last 12 times Doubront (9-4, 4.41 ERA) has taken the mound, and he beat the New York Yankees in his most recent start July 7. Part of his success can be credited to the majors' highest run-support average - he's getting nearly eight runs per nine innings - but he also has 97 strikeouts in 96 innings for the AL's fifth-best ratio.
Youkilis has never faced Doubront, but he's 8 for 24 with three homers and 10 walks for Chicago against left-handed pitching, going deep off Jon Lester on Tuesday.
Boston's lineup has been heavy with lefty hitters throughout this series, and Dustin Pedroia isn't expected to return until Thursday. Outfielder Cody Ross, batting .306 with seven homers in 62 at-bats versus southpaws, figures to be back in the lineup Wednesday.
David Ortiz (Achilles) is out at least a few more days, but Carl Crawford has provided a boost for Boston since making his season debut Monday. He has four hits and four runs in two games and stole three bases Tuesday.
Updated July 18, 2012