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Youkilis delivers walk-off hit in 10th

CHICAGO -- In searching for a blueprint as to why Kevin Youkilis stands as such a valuable White Sox addition, take a look at Wednesday's 5-4 victory in 10 innings over the Rangers before 30,271 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Youkilis made four solid plays in the field at third base, including two of the highlight-reel variety to steal hits from Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre in the fifth. Then, in the 10th inning against the always-tough Mike Adams (1-3), Youkilis delivered a walk-off single to left on a 2-2 pitch to bring home Alejandro De Aza and clinch a series victory for the White Sox (44-37).

But it was the trademark grinding approach shown by Youkilis that heightened this success a little more. Youkilis fell behind 0-2 before fouling off two fastballs and two sliders and checking his swing on two other pitches. Youkilis then connected on a fastball for the winning drive into left-center.

While that at-bat was a true lesson in working the count and seeking out a pitch, Youkilis' game-ending focus had more to do with the 97-degree game-time temperature and Thursday's looming afternoon affair.

"The main goal is to get the heck out of here," said Youkilis. "That was way too hot of a game, we got a day game. It's time to go home. That's always my approach. Easier said than done, but it was great and fun. I'm having a great time with this team. It's always a lot more fun when you do stuff like that."

"You try to describe to people the importance of Youk coming over here," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "That at-bat just really described it best. He's 0-2, he's grinding and it's just continuous. That's the kind of stuff that is infectious throughout a lineup for us."

De Aza reached base via a leadoff walk from Adams, after fouling a pitch off his right knee and staying on the ground in pain for a few minutes. But De Aza recovered to swipe second base on an 0-2 count to Youkilis, running on his own.

That pain had increased as De Aza talked to the media postgame and explained how the ball hit him flush on the knee. But De Aza said he'd be available for Thursday's series finale and certainly wasn't going to leave a tie game in the 10th.

"When I was on base, I didn't think about it," De Aza said. "I just tried to do my best to steal a base and get myself in. It was still bothering me, but the game was tied and on the line. I didn't want to take myself out."

"I understand he fouls it off, but either get out of the game or stay in the game, one or the other," said Adams, who admitted to being frustrated by the extended period of time it took for De Aza to recover. "But there's nothing I can do about it. I have to do a better job of staying with it and coming out being focused."

Relievers Nate Jones, Matt Thornton and Addison Reed combined to throw 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Dylan Axelrod, allowing just one hit and one walk. Reed (2-1) earned the victory, as the White Sox snapped a streak of seven straight series won by the Rangers (50-32).

Neither Axelrod nor Texas starter Scott Feldman factored into the final decision, but both pitched around early trouble to produce solid mound work.

Axelrod lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits, while walking two and striking out two. The right-hander threw 107 pitches and gave up Josh Hamilton's game-tying homer leading off the third, but otherwise was only hit hard with two outs in the first inning when four straight hits from Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young and Nelson Cruz produced three runs.

"They strung some hits together with two outs, and I made a bad pitch to Michael Young there," Axelrod said. "I told myself that's all they're going to get. With the way we swung it last night, I was confident we could pull it out."

A four-run second for the White Sox off of Feldman erased Axelrod's two-out struggles. Dayan Viciedo singled home one run, and Alexei Ramirez added another run-scoring single with his shot to right.

A.J. Pierzynski, who reached base when he was hit by Feldman on an 0-2 pitch, knocked over catcher Mike Napoli and jarred the ball loose as he arrived at the same time as David Murphy's throw home on Ramirez's single. With Napoli in the baseline, Pierzynski needed to run through the Texas catcher to score.

Gordon Beckham finished the rally with a two-run double to right. Feldman settled down, however, and gave up just two hits over the next four innings. The game stayed deadlocked until De Aza's legs and Youkilis' overall offensive ability came through in the 10th.

Loud cheers of "Yoooooouk" went up from the heat-challenged crowd, as fireworks from another locale could be seen in the distance. This Youkilis-induced picturesque setting helped maintain Chicago's two-game lead over Cleveland in the American League Central at the White Sox half-way point this season.

"He's a quality player," said Texas manager Ron Washington of Youkilis. "It's certainly not my first time seeing him break up a game."

"Things just keep going up and up," said Youkilis of his change from Red Sox to White Sox. "I had a little rut, baseball-wise, and was statistically in a funk. Hopefully this will be a thing where I can keep going forward and play better ball."

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