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Across diamond, Youkilis shines

Across diamond, Youkilis shines

ANAHEIM -- Kevin Youkilis only takes ground balls at third base on the days he's starting at the hot corner.

And he never takes popups aimed at the photographer's pit.

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So Youkilis' defensive effort at third in Friday's 7-5 win over the Angels in Game 2 of the American League Division Series did not go unnoticed. And it was impossible to miss his outstretched, backhanded circus catch over the wall of the photographer's pit to retire Gary Matthews with the second out of the ninth inning.

"It kind of deflates them at that moment," catcher Jason Varitek said. "That's a huge play."

Huge plays late in the game have been par for the course for Youkilis thus far in this series. His heads-up play on a Torii Hunter single to shallow right allowed him to nab a streaking Vladimir Guerrero at third to quell a potential Angels rally in the eighth inning of Game 1.

That play was made at first, and this one was made at third. Manager Terry Francona had agonized over whether he should give Mike Lowell and his aching right hip a day off Friday, and his eventual decision worked out quite well.

"Some days you're not going to hit well, some days you're not going to field well," said Youkilis, who went 1-for-5 with a run scored. "But there are little plays you can make each day, defensively or baserunning. Those things don't show up in box scores, but they can help out."

Youkilis was a huge help to closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth. Youkilis recorded the first out by fielding a Hunter bunt to the left side and firing the ball to first in time.

"Sometimes he bunts, and we just had to make sure to watch out for that," Youkilis said. "[First-base coach] Luis Alicea did a good job of making sure I knew. I saw him square and just charged as hard as I could."

The Matthews popup was a little more tricky. Youkilis had to test his flexibility to be able to reach far over the pit and come up with the ball.

"I thought I had it the whole time," he said, "but I just knew probably 30 or 40 feet from coming down, I knew I was going to have to jump up to get it."

All in all, it wasn't bad work for a guy who played 125 games at first this season against just 36 at third.

"I take pride in helping this team any way I can," Youkilis said.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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