|A relieved Daniel Nava: ‘Thank God, I’m not going to have just one’ homer||05.14.12 at 11:20 pm ET|
Back in 2010, when Daniel Nava was a rookie, he stepped to the plate against the Tampa Bay Rays. He was greeted by catcher Kelly Shoppach.
“I stepped in the box and he said, ‘Hey you’re the guy who hit that home run the first pitch.’ I said, ‘Yeah,’” Nava said on Monday night, a reference to the fact that he blasted the first pitch he saw in his first big league at-bat for a grand slam into the Red Sox bullpen on June 12, 2010. “He goes, ‘You really haven’t done much since then’ in terms of hitting another one. I don’t even know if he remembers that but I think it was just a joke. I started lauging, said, ‘It’s true, I can’t really say anything to that.’”
Now, Nava has his rebuttal. After a 23-month wait that stretched across 205 plate appearances, Nava finally went deep for the second time. The switch-hitting left-fielder jumped on an 87 mph first-pitch fastball from Mariners starter Jason Vargas and snuck it just over the Green Monster for his second career homer, and his first as a right-hander.
“I didn’t think it was gone, knowing how big the Wall is, and seeing some other balls that guys have hit, I didn’t feel like it compared to a [Will] Middlebooks bomb or what Shop did later. I thought it was going to go off the Wall and I was surprised that it barely squeaked over. I’ll take it,” said Nava. “When I hit that one, I was like, ‘Thank God, I’m not going to have just one.’ That’s all I was thinking. I wasn’t expecting to, I wasn’t trying, it just happened.”
Of course, the home run was only the latest surprise in what has been a remarkable call-up. The 29-year-old has been a game-changing force for the Red Sox in his five games in the majors, playing a significant role in the fact that his team has won four of those contests. Nava went 1-for-2 with two walks on Monday night. Amazingly, that merely sustained his .750 OBP.
He is now hitting .583 (7-for-12). He has reached base in 15 of his 20 plate appearances, and he’s already collected five extra-base hits.
The last time that he’s had such a stretch?
“Maybe video games?” Nava wondered. “It would be a lot different, I’m sure you guys know, if I was hitting in the three hole. I’m able to hit with a lot of thunder ahead of me and that allows me to get some good pitches and when you have guys on base it makes it a lot easier. If those guys aren’t getting on base it probably wouldn’t be something we’re talking about. Those guys are doing a great job of doing what they’re paid a lot of money to do and I’m just trying to do my part and fill in whenever they need me.”
That said, in a way, it is Nava who is being treated as if a biohazard by other teams. That notion was reinforced in the eighth inning with runners on second and third. After pitcher Shawn Kelley fell behind him, 2-0, the Mariners ordered two wide ones to Nava for his second big league intentional walk.
“I was really shocked that that actually happened,” allowed Nava.
Yet in watching the quality of Nava’s plate appearances, such an outcome would be anything but shocking.
“It’s been phenomenal,” manager Bobby Valentine said. “Every hitter, when they’re in that zone, says they’re seeing the ball well. This was my first time really looking at him closely from the right side. He’s fouling off the tough pitches. He’s taking the balls very early very confidently. He’s putting a good swing on a strikes. That’s a hitter’s wonderland. He’s in it, and I hope he can stay in it for a long time.”
Regardless of whether it’s sustainable or not, Nava’s performance over these five games has erased the idea that his debut represented a case of lightning in a bottle. At the very least, lightning has now struck twice.
“I’ve said this numerous times when guys have come in here and dominated,” Shoppach said of Nava on Monday night. “It’s awesome to watch these guys come up with no fear and get after it.”
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