Youkilis powers Red Sox past Orioles for third straight victory

BOSTON -- Coming off a bad game, Kevin Youkilis returned to ripping for the Red Sox.

Youkilis fell a triple short of the cycle and drove in four runs, leading Boston to a 6-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night.

One night after getting hit in the head and going 0-for-4, Youkilis went 4-for-5 with a three-run homer and two doubles as the Red Sox won their third straight after starting 2-6. Baltimore dropped its third consecutive game following a 6-2 start.

"He's swinging as good as anybody in the league," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "Last year he developed into one of the league's premier hitters and he's picked right up where he left off."

It was Youkilis' eighth multi-hit game in 11 played this season.

"He's pretty special. I've played with some really good hitters and I don't think I've ever seen anyone that's as comfortable," Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett said. "It doesn't matter what the count is. He trusts his hands so much and that's what keeps him from swinging at those pitchers' pitches.

"Sammy Sosa was that guy in the late `90s and early 2000s where he just fights off and fights off until he gets that pitch to hit," he continued. "Youkilis just doesn't miss them."

Mike Lowell had a pair of hits and an RBI for Boston.

The win was part of a sports-filled day in Boston. A few miles away at the TD Banknorth Garden, the Celtics lost a playoff game to the Chicago Bulls in the afternoon before the Bruins beat the Canadiens in Game 2 of their series.

Unlike Friday's series opener, when the Red Sox rallied from a 7-0 deficit for a 10-8 win, they jumped ahead 6-0 after four innings.

Aubrey Huff had a two-run double in the Orioles' four-run fifth inning to pull to 6-4.

"Let's give our guys credit for working it as hard as they did and coming back against one of the better pitchers not only in the league but in baseball," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "They get six runs, a big [hit] in the game obviously was the home run by Youkilis."

Youkilis, coming off just his second hitless game of the season Friday, hit a three-run drive into the seats above the Green Monster off starter Adam Eaton (0-2) to put Boston ahead 4-0 after Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz singled in the third.

"Right now it's one of those [times] where I'm swinging the bat good," said Youkilis, who batted .312 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs to finish third in MVP voting.

Eaton knew the pitch was a mistake.

"I got two strikes on him, a decent pitch to get him out on, whether it be a double play or fly ball or whatever," he said. "But hanging him a change up trying to get him out and down. It's something I probably won't do again."

Youkilis' RBI single in the fourth made it 6-0. He was hit in the head by Orioles reliever Danys Baez on Friday, but stayed in the game after getting up off the dirt.

Beckett (2-1), awaiting the appeal hearing of his six-game suspension for throwing over the head of Los Angeles' Bobby Abreu last Sunday, benefited from the early offense despite struggling with his control at times in six innings. He gave up four runs -- three earned -- on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts.

Hideki Okajima and Takashi Saito each pitched a scoreless inning before Jonathan Papelbon got three outs for his fourth save.

Papelbon retired the final two batters -- Nick Markakis and Huff -- after giving up Brian Roberts' single and hitting Adam Jones.

The Orioles scored four runs in the fifth. Markakis, who had a grand slam and drove Friday, drew a bases-loaded walk before Huff hit a double with the bases full. Markakis scored from third on the play when shortstop Nick Green bobbled the relay in short left for an error, making it 6-4.

Jason Varitek's RBI single made it 1-0 in the second.

Eaton lasted only four innings, as he did in his first start of the season, giving up six runs and nine hits.

Game notes
Red Sox INF Jed Lowrie, on the 15-day DL with a sprained left wrist, may need surgery and is heading to Arizona for a second opinion. ... Baltimore SS Cesar Izturis snapped an 0-17 stretch with a bunt single. ... Boston SS Julio Lugo and OF Mark Kotsay both played in extended spring training games earlier Saturday. Lugo, working back from right knee surgery, played four innings at short and went 1-for-2 with two walks. Kotsay, out after back surgery, was the DH and went 1-for-3. ... Injured Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, out with a strained shoulder, was to rest a few more days before starting a strengthening program.