Red Sox Recap: Mike Napoli Loves Playing The Angels
Going into the series, Mike Napoli already had a successful history against his former team, the Los Angeles Angels. Mike Digiovanna of LA Times reported that “Napoli was traded to Toronto for Vernon Wells after 2010, the Blue Jays flipped Napoli to Texas, and Napoli has made the Angels pay ever since, hitting .327 (53 for 162) with 17 home runs and 32 runs batted in against his former club.” The Boston Red Sox needed that trend to continue to pull ahead of the Angels in last night’s game.
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When asked if he wants revenge each time that he plays against the Angels, after trading him, Napoli said, “I like doing that, but I don’t know what it is … It just happens. Guys have teams they do that against. The Angels happen to be it for me.”
However, the fact that the Angels started Napoli’s former teammate C.J. Wilson as the pitcher, in their days playing for the Texas Rangers, may have added to the adrenaline.
In the spring of 2012, “in response to what Wilson perceived as some trash-talking on Napoli’s part, Wilson tweeted Napoli’s cellphone number to 116,000 followers, saying it was a prank. Napoli did not find it amusing. ‘I don’t even know why he did it,’ Napoli said at the time. ‘You don’t do that. I am not taking it as a prank. I haven’t even talked to him since the end of last season. We don’t have that type of relationship.’ Wilson eventually deleted the tweet and later tweeted: ‘OK, I think we’ve all had a good time. I’m even with Mike for saying he can’t wait to hit homers off me.'”
In front of 37 735 fans in Fenway Park, yesterday, the onslaught commenced. Steven Wright started on the mound for the Red Sox, allowing Angels Kole Calhoun to double to center field in the top of the first inning, scoring Erick Aybar and Albert Pujols. That is as much as the Angels would have in terms of scoring chances. The rest belonged to the Red Sox, especially Napoli.
In the bottom of the second inning, Napoli unleashed a solo drive to left field, off of a 92-mph fastball from Wilson. He followed that up with another crushing blow to left center field, in the bottom of the sixth inning, which also brought home left fielder Hanley Ramirez. This time, it was a 77-mph curve that Napoli disposed of, quickly. These blasts were Napoli’s sixth and seventh home runs of the season. Guess Napoli was not quite done in thinking him and Wilson were even.
Not to be left out, a few other Red Sox batters had good nights of their own, at the plate. Back in the bottom of the third inning, Mookie Betts, who came in very early to pinch hit for Shane Victorino, singled to left field, scoring Brock Holt. Xander Bogaerts added to the run total, in the bottom of the seventh inning, by hitting a liner to right field, to score catcher Blake Swihart and Betts.
May 23, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts (50) leaps to catch a ball hit by Los Angeles Angels third baseman David Freese (6) during the ninth inning of Boston
The Angels did respond, finally, in the top of the eighth inning, with center fielder Mike Trout singling, off of Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa, to left field to bring home Aybar. However, the damage had already been done, which was added to by Swihart and Betts, once again. Swihart singled to right field to score Holt off of Angels relief pitcher Fernando Salas. Betts followed that up, against the same pitcher, by sending the ball to left field for a single that scored Swihart.
No victorious shampoo commercials for Wilson on this night, as Napoli and the Red Sox beat the Angels by the score of 8-3.
- The Red Sox went 6-for-12 with runners in scoring position, a much better total than in previous games. The Angels went 2-for-9.
- Victorino had to leave the game with calf tightness, after making a leaping catch at the warning track in right field. MLB.com‘s Ian Browne reported Red Sox manager John Farrell saying, “Obviously he’s day to day right now, but if there’s anything more to that, we’ll know in the morning when we check him out.”
- Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo, recently called up from Triple-A, went 1-for-4 at the plate, and was a relative non-factor in the game. Designated hitter, and face of the franchise, David Ortiz, moved to the four-spot in the batting order, went 0-for-4.
- Betts went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs. Not bad for coming off of the bench, on an expected day off.
Wright has been doing very well as a replacement forJustin Masterson
in the starting rotation, recently. Since taking over the duties, Wright has given up three runs or less in each of those three starts, none of them becoming losses for his record. However, last night’s game was the first start where he recorded the victory. Wright threw only 75 pitches, 49 of them were strikes, making quick work of the Angels for 6.1 innings. The outs were a mix of different ways: five being groundouts, nine flyouts, and two strikeouts. Nothing was a force of will, as Wright just made pitches that got the job done, trusting his stuff and his defense. Wright ended his night with allowing two runs on four hits and a walk, showing the rest of the Red Sox rotation how it’s done.
There wasn’t much on the line for the Red Sox bullpen to worry about, when Wright left the game. In the top of the seventh inning,Alexi Ogando
inherited one baserunner from a one-out walk. Ogando held the Angels, with a strikeout added to his record, without giving up a hit or a walk. Tazawa was less successful, allowing a run on two hits, while striking out an Angel.Koji Uehara
was never in line for the save, but still blanked the Angels from even getting a hit. Uehara did walk two batters while earning a strikeout. Nothing horrible, nothing amazing. The job was done, but it could have been worse if Tazawa would have left the flood gates open in the eighth inning.
Timely hitting was the order of the day. You would think that eight runs would be demanding a higher grade; however, the hits were sprinkled throughout the game, with nobody having more than two hits for their efforts. Napoli’s two home runs and three RBIs made him the clear winner of the game ball.
Sadly, Napoli’s night only helped to bring his poor batting average to .193 for the season. If he was consistent with this display of offense, he wouldn’t be hitting after Bogaerts, the shortstop whom everyone was doubting that his hitting would get any better than last season’s nightmare. Check out Conor Duffy’s article on this web site, later today, for whether Napoli’s performance was a flash in the pan or if he can sustain it for the 2015 season.
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