BOSTON – After an emotional 9-7 opening-day win over the New York Yankees Sunday night, Kevin Youkilis walked into the postgame press conference like a member of the board of directors laying out the bottom line.

“This is just one game,” Youkilis said matter of factly.

But, asked one questioner, wasn’t this so much more, with it being the opener and against the Yankees?

Youkilis, 31, did not jump on the we-are-the-champions bandwagon.

“We looked dull in the beginning. We didn’t score a lot of runs. It didn’t look too pretty,” Youkilis said, before allowing that “this (Red Sox) team is resilient.”

And yes, Youkilis went on, “it’s good to get a win opening night, good for the city, good for the fans, good for the players, good for everyone.

“But it’s still just one game. Just got to take it day by day, pitch to pitch, whatever cliche you want to throw out there. That’s just how you have to play this game.”

And that is how Youkilis plays it, and that is the reason he continues to be a leader on this team.

All he did Sunday night was go 3 for 4 with two doubles, a triple, two RBI and three runs .

The last Boston player with three extra-base hits in a season opener? A fellow named Carlton Fisk, in 1973 against the Yankees.

The best brings out the best.

“He’s swinging the bat really well,” Boston Manager Terry Francona said of Youkilis. “When he’s driving the ball to right field like that (for the triple), he’s feeling pretty good about himself.”

On a night when Josh Beckett was far from his best (“my fastball command wasn’t great”) and when reliever Ramon Ramirez struggled (four batters, one out), the Red Sox broke out the bats for 12 hits and nine runs.

Boston was supposed to be weaker on offensive without Jason Bay and with others whose skills may be diminished, such as David Ortiz. Youkilis continually argued against that during spring training, and he appeared to feel justified Sunday.

“We all have faith in ourselves and we know we’re a good-hitting team,” Youkilis said. “I don’t think we have to prove that to anyone but ourselves — just go out there and have the same philosophy and same approach.

“There’s some good players here, not just defensive (like) everyone’s saying. These guys can play.”

Youkilis was right about Boston’s slow start in the opener: one hit through 42/3 innings. Of course, the one hit was a double by Youkilis, who advanced to third on a groundout and scored on Adrian Beltre’s sacrifice fly.

Then the hits picked up.

“We showed (Sunday night) that we put together some good at-bats and didn’t give up,” Youkilis said.

Youkilis had some of those “good at-bats.” He entered Sunday’s opener with a .292 career average and 276 extra-base hits over four-plus seasons.

Mention those numbers to Youkilis and his response is simple: Be content and fade away.

“I’m still trying to learn a lot more about hitting,” he said. “That’s what I work on, not being satisfied with any at-bats.

“I’m trying to learn my swing and my approach, trying to calm myself down at the plate. I find when I calm myself down, I’ll stay a lot more consistent.

“That’s something I’m trying to work on this year and hopefully it will work out.”

A consistent Youkilis can carry Boston a long way, one game at a time.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]