Bay, Youk have Francona's confidence

Bay, Youk have Francona's confidence

BOSTON -- Early this season, Jason Bay and Kevin Youkilis were two of the leading pace-setters for the Red Sox's offense. With Youkilis among the American League leaders in batting and Bay among the leaders in RBIs, both players were selected to represent Boston in the All-Star Game.

With the Sox offense currently in stall mode -- a .247 average since the All-Star break entering Thursday's series finale against the A's, .242 (186-for-770) in July, in which the team is 11-12 -- the production for both players has been equally stagnant.

Still, Red Sox manager Terry Francona is confident both players will find their correct places. Bay hit his 20th home run of the season July 7 against the A's, his only homer of the month, and has reached the 20-homer mark in each of his first six full Major League seasons, averaging 95 RBIs in his five complete big league seasons.

"This is one thing you've probably heard me say way too many times -- for whatever reason, players get to their level," Francona said before Thursday's afternoon game. "I don't know how to explain, other than Jason Bay drives in, what, 100 runs a year, 110. I don't know, it may be a little different on our team, because we have a better offense than he's used to [than in four-plus seasons in Pittsburgh]. He'll probably be there at the end of the year. I guess we all hope he's higher. But guys get to their level. It's unbelievable, whether they hit .400 in April or .400 in September, they seem to always end up pretty close to where they're supposed to [be].

"Some of it has to do with who's getting on in front of you. Some of it has to do with how you're swinging the bat. There's a lot of things that come into play."

Entering Thursday's series finale against the A's, Bay was hitting .203 (14-for-69) in July with six extra-base hits (one home run, five doubles) and five RBIs, giving him a season total of .254, with 20 home runs and 74 RBIs, tied with Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira for third in the league. His league-high 67 walks contribute to his overall .381 on-base percentage, .396 in July.

Youkilis, hitting .291 for the season, with 17 home runs and 59 RBIs, was hitting just .230 (20-for-87) with four home runs and 14 RBIs in July. He had nine walks and 23 strikeouts entering Thursday's game. His OBP, fourth in the AL this season at .407, is just .302 this month.

"We've gone through a period with [Bay] and Youk pretty much together where they're missing some pitches," Francona said. "And that'll change. Youk [Wednesday] night [0-for-4, four strikeouts, one walk, one run scored] was very aggressive. And I understand. When you don't see the ball as good, you got to get out there and hit. When you're seeing the ball good, it's easy. You see it, it comes to you and you whack it. You recognize a pitch that's in and out of the zone. Then, all of a sudden, it's not quite perfect and you start swinging at balls that you wouldn't normally because you don't see it as well and it kind of multiplies on you.

"That's why hitting's so hard. That's why some of the guys like [Hall of Famer Wade] Boggs are so unbelievable, because they didn't do that. I don't know how, but they figured out how to not get in those funks."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.