Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis

Floyd comes out on top in pitching duel

CHICAGO — Ricky Romero closed out a shaky first half with a positive outing. It just wasn’t enough to get a victory.

CHICAGO — Ricky Romero closed out a shaky first half with a positive outing. It just wasn’t enough to get a victory.

Romero pitched six solid innings, but the Toronto Blue Jays struggled against Gavin Floyd and Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run homer to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 2-0 win Saturday.

Romero (8-4) allowed four hits and struck out two, falling to 0-3 with a 10.80 ERA in his last three starts. The left-hander has an unseemly 5.22 ERA for the season, after going 15-11 with a career-low 2.92 ERA last year.

“I’m as disappointed as anyone in my first half. It’s definitely not how I wanted it to be,” Romero said. “At the same time, you learn from moments like this. I know 100 per cent in my mind that it’s gonna make me better. I’ll be ready for the second half.”

Romero walked three, but felt his control was much better than it had been in previous starts. He was averaging almost five walks per nine innings.

“The biggest thing was staying tall,” he said. “At times I was collapsing early and causing pitches to stay up. Today I felt like I was more in control of myself.”

Floyd (7-8) allowed four hits and walked two in 7 2-3 innings while improving to 3-1 with a 1.37 ERA in his last four starts. The 6-foot-6 right-hander received a standing ovation when he left in the eighth.

The White Sox have won five straight to move a season-high 10 games over .500. The AL Central leaders also have won a season-high seven straight at home.

Romero made one big mistake, and it was a costly one.

With two out in the fifth inning and Alexei Ramirez on first, Youkilis drove Romero’s 1-1 pitch over the wall in centre for his seventh homer of the season and No. 3 since he was acquired in a trade with the Red Sox.

“It’s hard to say you expect it, but you like having guys on base and you like him in tough situations because he just continues to find the right pitch and just battle,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.

With closer Addison Reed getting the day off, Matt Thornton got four outs for his second save of the season. Jose Bautista hit a one-out drive in the ninth that left fielder Dayan Viciedo lost in the sun, but the White Sox recovered in time to cut down the All-Star slugger trying for a triple.

Bautista argued the call with third base umpire Derryl Cousins, but quickly left the field.

“That play’s right in front of him,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. “Down two with one out and Edwin (Encarnacion) coming up, he was trying to generate something. It took a bang-bang relay throw, they executed it and it didn’t work.”

Brett Lawrie led off the game with a single, but Floyd did not allow another hit until J.P. Arencibia led off the sixth with a single. Arencibia was quickly retired on Lawrie’s double-play ball.

Lawrie then was removed due to lower back tightness. Farrell said Lawrie is questionable for the series finale on Sunday, but the 22-year-old said he expects to play.

“One spot in my back is just kinda tight,” Lawrie said. “I thought the best thing to do was get out of there and not make it worse.”

With his clutch hitting and strong play at third base, Youkilis has quickly become a fan favourite in his first homestand with his new club.

He has a go-ahead RBI in five games for the White Sox while hearing the familiar “Yooouk” salute from the crowd that was once a fixture at Fenway Park.

“You can be popular one week then a bomb the next,” Youkilis said. “The game is crazy and you just have to keep grinding it out. You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low, you just try to stay in the middle.”

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