CLEVELAND -- The party was at Progressive Field on Monday night. Given the high dose of energy injected into the Cleveland sports scene lately and the promise of Fourth of July fireworks, fans poured into the ballpark for a sold-out show of support for the first-place Tribe.Mike Napoli showed his
CLEVELAND -- The party was at Progressive Field on Monday night. Given the high dose of energy injected into the Cleveland sports scene lately and the promise of Fourth of July fireworks, fans poured into the ballpark for a sold-out show of support for the first-place Tribe.
Mike Napoli showed his appreciation with a towering home run in the seventh inning that sailed roughly a quarter of the way up the steep left-field bleacher seats, providing the decisive blow in a 5-3 win over the rival Tigers. The win was the 15th in the past 17 games for Cleveland, which improved to 10-0 on the season against second-place Detroit and now has a 12-game winning streak at home.
Napoli said the postgame party was at his place.
"It's at Napoli's, for sure," Napoli said with a grin.
The slogan "Party at Napoli's" began with a poster in the stands earlier this season and soon swept through social media. It has become a rallying cry during games and a phrase of celebration following wins, and has gained steam to the point where players are donning blue shirts sporting the phrase.
The Indians now sell the shirts in their shop, with a portion of the proceeds going to Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital.
Napoli has enjoyed watching fans embrace the slogan.
"I love it. It's pretty cool," said Napoli, who also doubled and scored in the second inning. "I enjoy it because I can be able to give back."
Thanks to a pregame rain delay lasting two hours and 21 minutes, Cleveland's July 4 celebration had carried over to July 5 by the seventh inning. With the game in a 3-3 deadlock, Napoli settled into his stance with one out and Francisco Lindor on first base. Detroit right-hander Bruce Rondon unleashed a 96-mph fastball that ran low and inside and right into Napoli's wheelhouse.
Napoli sent the pitch towering high over left field, where it crashed deep into the bleachers as the crowd roared with approval. According to Statcast™, the ball traveled an estimated 430 feet, but the data stream might as well have spit out "country mile." The two-run blast had an exit velocity of 109 mph and gave the Indians a two-run lead that held up for the win.
"Man, it's nice," manager Terry Francona said. "He's done that so many times. We don't live by the home run a ton, but when he's up, I mean, that's why he's here. We certainly try not to run into outs, because we like to get to him and let him take three good swings."
Cleveland can work around Napoli's .237 batting average and 34.8 percent strikeout rate because of his power. His homer was his 17th of the season and gave him a team-leading 55 RBIs, making him the first Indians right-handed batter to have at least that many homers and RBIs in a first half since 2001 (Juan Gonzalez).
He is also one of nine players this season to have at least six homers with an exit velocity of at least 109 mph. No other Cleveland hitter has even one.
"He's a power hitter," pitcher Danny Salazar said. "You can expect something like that at any point in the game, every time he's up. He's great. He always has a lot of energy. He's always laughing, making jokes with us. He's giving us energy, too, when we're kind of down. It's amazing having a guy like that here."
In front of a packed house on Monday night, Napoli was the life of the party.
He was thrilled to see Progressive Field buzzing, too.
"It's a good time to be in Cleveland right now," he said. "We got to be here for the [Cavs' NBA championship] parade and when they clinched. It was exciting to see the fans out there and really excited about it. Hopefully, it keeps up, because it definitely helps us."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.