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BOSTON (CBS) – The month of August started out as a nightmare for Mike Napoli, but the well-rested Red Sox first baseman began turning that all around over the weekend in Los Angeles.
Napoli collected five hits in his two games against the Dodgers, going five-for-eight with four RBIs as Boston took two of three in Los Angeles. He started Boston’s scoring on Sunday night with an RBI ground-rule double, and it capped off with a monster two-run homer in the top of the ninth to lead the Red Sox to an 8-1 victory.
“I’m not a person trying to hit singles, I swing to drive the ball. I got a good pitch to hit, and everything was right,” Napoli said of the blast after the win. “It definitely feels good to hit a ball like that.”
Napoli is hitting just .214 for the month, with nearly as many strikeouts (20) as hits (12) and walks (9) combined. After going hitless in eight of 11 games during the month and dropping in the lineup, manager John Farrell gave Napoli a few days off to clear his head and rest his aching foot.
But with the time off behind him Napoli stepped in for the now-dinged up David Ortiz, who is dealing with a tight back. He went three-for-four in Saturday’s win, singling home Boston’s first run in the top of the first and later scoring on a home run by Jonny Gomes in the 4-2 win.
After the abysmal start to the month, the Red Sox are once again seeing shades of the Napoli they saw filling a major need in the heart of their lineup when they signed him in the off-season.
But it will be key to make sure he gets his occasional rest so he isn’t over-worked should October baseball be in the cards for Boston.
“I think the thing that we’re learning about Mike is that when he’s rested, he’s a force,” said Farrell. “And we’ve got to continue to balance that as we go forward. That will probably include rotating some guys through (at first). I don’t want to say it will be a platoon situation, but when he’s rested, that swing is pretty dynamic.”
Farrell said the Red Sox will work in days off for Napoli, with Daniel Nava or Mike Carp filling in at first. Depending on Ortiz’s back, Napoli could see some time at DH as well.
“My body feels rested. I’m feeling better and it’s starting to show,” said Napoli, who said he was working on his swing while his foot (and slump) kept him out of the lineup. “It’s finally just going in and playing in the game. You can work on all the stuff you want in BP, but it has to carry over into the game when you’re competing. You can’t think about mechanics with a 95 MPH fastball. My body is taking over and I’m in the right position to hit it.”
It’s just two games, but having a rested and productive Napoli back in the lineup will be huge for the Red Sox as they close out the season. After taking two of three from the Dodgers, one of the best teams in baseball, mixed with the Rays falling to the Yankees on Sunday, Boston now owns a one game lead over Tampa in the AL East.
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“He’s been right in the middle of it when we’ve been on good runs,” Farrell said of his slugging first baseman. “His ability to drive in multiple runs with one swing of the bat and the threat he presents in the lineup is needed as we move forward.