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Seven years later, Mike Napoli gets Justin Verlander again

10.15.13 at 10:02 pm ET
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DETROIT — May 4, 2006.

That’s when Mike Napoli┬árecorded his first major league hit, taking Detroit starter Justin Verlander over the Comerica Park fence.

October 15, 2013.

That’s when Napoli notched his most recent major league hit, also taking Verlander over the Comerica Park fence.

While the one seven years ago will forever be a career highlight for the righty hitter, his blast in the seventh inning of Game 3 of the American League Series probably feels a bit more significant in the here and now.

“Obviously I’ll never forget that, being my first at-bat,” Napoli said after the Red Sox‘ 1-0 win. “I remember it being a day game and me being really tired that day. Got the call from Salt Lake City.

“[Verlander] has definitely grown. I’ve definitely grown. You just have to make adjustments. He didn’t really throw too much of a slider back then. He threw really hard, threw a curveball, had a good changeup. We all watch video. We all get game-plans and you kind of have a plan of what he’s going to do to you, what he’s done in the past, and that’s what I go off.”

This time, Verlander had started Napoli off with four straight sliders in the first baseman’s first at-bat of the game (ending up in a strikeout). The second at-bat also resulted in a punch-out, this time courtesy of four fastballs and a curveball.

Then came at-bat No. 3.

Verlander followed up three straight fastballs with a pair of sliders before mislocating a heater Napoli was able to deposit over the left-center field fence.

“I’ve been feeling comfortable,” said Napoli, who came into the game 4-for-18 against Verlander. “I’m not searching for anything. For me it’s just being on time. Going to that at-bat, he got me twice early in the game. Threw me four sliders, which he’s never done to me before. But I just kept on going at it. I put a good at-bat together. I was able to get it to 3-2 and got a pitch I could handle.”

“I felt like he hadn’t seen the fastball very well today, either, and he took those two sliders before that pitch,” Verlander said. “The second one I threw was a really good slider that he didn’t chase. So 3-2 there, and having faced him a couple of times already, I knew he wasn’t seeing the fastball that great. I decided to challenge him. And that’s … I made a little bit of a mistake. It was a little bit up and over the middle. You have to give him credit.”

In Napoli’s only other meeting with Verlander this season, the righty had thrown 19 pitches over three plate appearances. In that June 23 outing against the Sox first baseman, the hurler threw eight fastballs, five sliders (one which Napoli managed a single against), four changeups and two curveballs.

“I see a lot of pitches throughout the season. Every at-bat, I try to see a lot of pitches,” Napoli said. “I feel like the more pitches I see the better for me, the more I get involved into that at-bat, the more I can see stuff. But it doesn’t mean I’m not going to be aggressive early in the count. I’m just trying to get a pitch that I can handle an drive somewhere.

“He threw me two sliders before the fastball. I felt comfortable. I took them really well and I felt comfortable and confident when I saw those and took those sliders. I ‘ll just try to be short to the ball and get a pitch I can handle.”

 

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