Thursday, August 7, 2003

Youkilis' streak falls 1 game shy of record

Ties minors mark with 71 games on base

Enquirer news services

[IMAGE] Pawtucket's Kevin Youkilis reached base in 71 straight games, tying a minor-league record set in 1997 by current Boston Red Sox player Kevin Millar.
(Associated Press photo)
PAWTUCKET, R.I. - It appeared Pawtucket Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis was about to set the modern minor-league record for reaching base in consecutive games when he belted a 1-and-2 delivery to deep center field in the first inning Tuesday night at McCoy Stadium.

But the ball was caught by Syracuse SkyChiefs center fielder Dewayne Wise, and that proved to be the best chance for the 23-year-old former Sycamore High and University of Cincinnati star to extend his streak to 72 games. After a fly out in the fourth inning and called strikeouts in the sixth and ninth, Youkilis went back to being just another minor-leaguer working to establish himself as a prospect. And his PawSox lost 9-0.

Still, it was a remarkable feat, one that tied Youkilis with current Red Sox slugger Kevin Millar for the minor-league mark at 71 consecutive games. Millar reached base in 71 games over three seasons (and two minor-league levels) from July 11, 1997, to April 19, 1999.

Like Youkilis, Millar was with Double-A Portland - then a Florida affiliate, now a Boston farm team - for much of the streak.

"It's some weight off of my shoulders," said Youkilis, who despite the streak entered Tuesday night with a .194 batting average and .342 on-base percentage in nine games with Pawtucket. "I'm going to have to start swinging the bat better."

His Triple-A numbers are a far cry from those he posted in Portland, where he led all of minor-league baseball with a .487 on-base percentage while batting .327.

"I have to keep making strides here," said Youkilis. "It's tough to go out like that. But I had fun. It was a great ride."

Tuesday night was the first time Youkilis went 0-for-4 with no walks since May 18, the day before the streak began.

In his second at-bat, he popped out to right fielder Gabe Gross on a 2-and-2 pitch. In his third at-bat, Youkilis went from an 0-and-1 count to 3-and-1. Then he took two strikes looking, voicing his displeasure with umpire Darin Williams after being called out.

"I don't want to say anything on the record about that," said Youkilis, "but I thought it was ball four, and the umpire disagreed."

On his last at-bat, he took the first strike, fouled off the second, then took the third and hung his head.

"I thought the third was outside, but I guess it wasn't," he said.

Syracuse's Josh Towers struck out eight in all - and walked none - as he went the distance in a four-hitter.

"I felt for (Youkilis)," said Pawtucket manager Buddy Bailey. "You could see more emotion from him hitting today because he knew what the situation was. (After the game) I went in there and shook his hand and I congratulated him on a tremendous run. I know the sun will come up for him."

Bailey said he will give Youkilis a day off Wednesday to reflect and recharge his batteries. Upon hearing that, Youkilis said he would respect the manager's decision, but added, "My batteries are all right."

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