Mike Napoli preserves Red Sox’ hot stretch with clutch round-tripper
|07.19.14 at 11:47 pm ET|
One of the staples of last year’s championship season for the Red Sox has once again become a recurring theme over the first two contests of this brief three-game homestand against the Royals: Contributions from up and down the Boston roster.
Whether it be Xander Bogaerts’ and Jonny Gomes’ clutch home runs Friday night or Mike Napoli‘s sixth-inning go-ahead solo shot Saturday, the Sox are suddenly benefiting from different players stepping to the forefront of individual games en route to wins.
“That’s what we did last year,” Napoli said after Saturday’s 2-1 win over Kansas City. “That’s how you win ballgames. It can’t just be one guy doing it, so everyone is going to have to contribute and we all know that and we’re going to take it one day at a time.”
Comparisons aside, the Red Sox‘ recent stretch of clutch hitting has been a key factor in sustaining a run that has seen Boston win three in a row and six out of its last seven games.
With the game deadlocked in a 1-1 score Saturday, Napoli strode to the plate to face off against Royals southpaw starter Danny Duffy, who had only surrendered three hits over his first 5 1/3 innings of work.
After forcing the count to 3-1, Napoli turned on a high fastball from Duffy and clobbered it over the Monster and into Lansdowne Street for his 11th home run of the season, giving Boston a 2-1 lead that it would not yield in the following innings.
“I got into a hitter’s count,” Napoli said. “I was 3-1. I was trying to hit something hard somewhere, got a pitch up to handle and I drove it.”
Napoli added: “I hit it pretty good. With that wall right there, I know when I hit it, it was probably going to be a home run.”
Seeing the ball sail out of Fenway likely came as of relief to Napoli, who had not hit a home run since tagging Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka for a solo shot June 28 in what was the eventual game-winning run in a 2-1 Red Sox win.
Napoli has had a habit of picking good times for his round-trippers this season. His last three home runs — all since June 23 — have given the Red Sox the lead, while three of his last five dingers have proven to be the deciding run in the sixth inning or later for the Red Sox.
After dealing with a short DL stint in late May/early June due to a dislocated finger, Napoli has once again established himself as a productive hitter in the cleanup spot in the Sox lineup.
Napoli has now reached base in 21 of his last 22 games, hitting .303 (23-for-76) with a .436 OBP during that time.
For Napoli, maintaining his status as an offensive force in the heart of the lineup is of the utmost importance for a struggling Sox offense that is 14th in the American League in runs scored.
“I’m going to have to be [one of those big bats in the lineup],” Napoli said. “I’m going to have to produce, but I’m not going to go out there and try to do too much. I’m going to stick to my plan: See the ball, hit the ball.”
While Boston’s recent numbers over the past seven games (6-1 record, 5.3 runs per game, 2.57 team ERA) might signal the start of a post All-Star break run for the team, Napoli made sure to note that the team’s mindset has not changed all season.
“We’re going out playing the same way, playing hard. We won a couple one-run ballgames. We haven’t won too many of those this year, so we’re just going out there and trying to execute and hopefully things start turning our way.”
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