BOSTON -- Even with Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox lineup is very left-handed.
And without him?
Well, in Boston's 4-3 loss to the Rays Saturday, Rays manager Joe Maddon used left-handed rookie Matt Moore for three innings of set-up relief. Moore, in just his second big-league appearance, entered the game with a two-run lead in the sixth, and handed a one-run lead to fill-in closer Joel Peralta in the ninth.
Moore gave up one run, but held the lead. He held the Red Sox lefties down, and he helped the Rays cut Boston's wild-card lead to just three games with 11 games remaining.
The Rays are still a real longshot; while they seemingly have an edge in Sunday's pitching matchup (David Price vs. Tim Wakefield), the schedule after that is decidedly against them.
But the Youkilis question is worth watching. It's not clear when or even if he'll play again this year, because of the combined effects of a hip problem and a sports hernia. Even if he plays, it's impossible to say what the Red Sox could expect from him.
"I'm not trying not to tell you," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Saturday. "I just don't know. Where it goes from now, we really don't know."
Without Youkilis, Francona has moved left-handed hitting David Ortiz up to the cleanup spot, with left-handed hitting Josh Reddick moving up to hit behind him. Add in leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury and third-place hitter Adrian Gonzalez, and four of the first five hitters in the Boston lineup Saturday were left-handed.
And when Francona went to hit for Reddick in the eighth inning of a one-run game Saturday, the best right-handed hitter he could summon off the bench was Conor Jackson, who was just off an 0-for-27 drought.
Maddon admitted after the game that the Red Sox lefty-dominated lineup was a big reason he used Moore the way he did.
Before we make too much of this, it's worth noting that the Red Sox have been good against lefties this season, and that Ortiz (.342), Gonzalez (.315) and Ellsbury (.287) have all hit lefties well. Average-stuff lefties don't bother them much.
It's also worth noting that the Red Sox haven't hit well against Rays pitching -- right- and left-handed -- and that Youkilis, at .184 in 11 games, is one of the culprits.
Moore, who was clocked at 95-98 mph on the radar gun Saturday, is one of baseball's top pitching prospects, maybe the best one out there.
Still, it's interesting that Maddon would use him for three innings in such a tight -- and important -- game. And equally interesting that the left-handed Red Sox weren't able to do much with him.