Napoli on a tear during homestand
Red Sox first baseman finds his stroke at Fenway Park
BOSTON -- Why were the Red Sox so patient when Mike Napoli spent the first seven weeks of the season in one of the most epic slumps imaginable? Because they know full well what the payoff is when Napoli gets hot.
The slugger hit two home runs on Saturday night, leading the Red Sox to an 8-3 victory over the Angels.
The first one was a laser into the Monster seats that plunked a home-made bull's-eye sign by one of the Fenway patrons. The second was a majestic two-run blast that soared over everything to break a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the sixth.
When this homestand started, Napoli had a .162 average (19-for-117) to go with three homers and 11 RBIs.
In the first five games of this homestand, which concludes on Sunday, Napoli is hitting .389 (7-for-18) with four homers and six RBIs.
"I feel pretty good," said Napoli. "This is a time where I have to maintain what I'm doing right now in the cage and in my BP. I know where my hands have to get. You know, it's a good feeling to go in there and be able to compete and not try to think about what's going wrong with my swing or anything. I'll try to keep that muscle memory and be able to go in the game with it."
The problem with the Red Sox in recent weeks is that nearly everyone has been slumping. If one player can get red hot like Napoli, it can have a ripple effect.
"The way I was hitting, it wasn't helping us," Napoli said. "We've got a lot of good hitters in this lineup. We're definitely better than what we've been doing out there. Just got to keep going, keep grinding. Everyone in this clubhouse is going to do that. We know we can be a great offense, but we've got to be able to go out there and do it."
Right now, Napoli, who played for the Angels from 2006-10, is clearly leading the charge.
"On this homestand, he's found his stroke pretty well and he's hit extremely well against the Angels," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Since leaving there, it's been impressive to see what he's done against that team. I think more importantly for us, he's on time and it's more consistent with what we've seen for a number of years from Nap. Couldn't come at a better time."
Napoli's biggest battle at the plate has always been his timing. When it is right, there are few hitters more dangerous.
What does the recent surge mean?
"It means my foot's getting down in time to where I can recognize a pitch in the zone," said Napoli. "That's what you work to, to be able to hit a strike in the zone no matter what it is. It's definitely a good feeling, and like I said, I'm going to try to get that going with my pregame work and go out there and play hard."