Napoli hopes tying HR is a slump-buster

Napoli hopes tying HR is a slump-buster
August 15, 2013, 12:00 am
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Will Middlebrooks greets a pumped-up Mike Napoli after Napoli's two-run homer in the ninth saved the Red Sox temporarily.

(USA Today Sports)

TORONTO -- On another night, with a different outcome, Mike Napoli could have really celebrated.
     
But Wednesday night, after the Red Sox lost a game they had come back to tie in the ninth on Napoli's dramatic two-out, two-run homer, it felt a little empty.
    
"Obviously, we would have liked to win the game,'' said Napoli after the Red Sox lost 4-3 to Toronto in 10 innings. "But it felt good doing something like that, to come through in a situation. Obviously, I've been struggling a little bit. But you keep grinding and I got a pitch I could drive and put a good swing on it.''
     
Actually, Napoli had been struggling more than "a little bit.'' On the team's road trip, he had been just 3-for-31. And until he drove a pitch from Brett Cecil into the right-field seats, scoring Jonny Gomes ahead of him and tying the score 3-3, he was in the midst of an 0-for-16 skid.
     
It had gotten so bad, in fact, that manager John Farrell had dropped Napoli to seventh in the batting order Wednesday night and before the game acknowledged that the Sox would have to think about rotating Daniel Nava and Mike Carp into the lineup more often if Napoli didn't start to produce.
     
There were hints that Napoli was having a better night earlier in the night when, in his second at-bat, he scalded a liner over the second-base bag. But Toronto second baseman Munenori Kawasaki timed his leap perfectly and robbed Napoli of a hit.      

"Today, I got out a couple of times, but I felt good about my approach,'' Napoli said, "and where I was at.''
     
"Encouraging,'' said Farrell. "Certainly, what he's been going through of late, coming up in a key spot to tie it... down to the last out... As we said before the game, he's streaky and we know it. We have to ride it out with him and he came up big in the moment.''
     
Another encouraging aspect was that when Napoli connected in the ninth, he hit the ball to the opposite field, where he often drives the ball when he's going well.
     
"I like hitting the ball the other way,'' Napoli said. "I was just trying to put my body in a good situation to do that. I thought I was getting my [lead] foot down better today and was able to recognize pitchers.''
     
Trailing by two runs and down to his team's last out, Napoli didn't deny trying to hit the ball out.
     
"I'm trying to drive the ball, yeah,'' said Napoli. "I'm always up there trying to drive the ball. I'm not trying to hit a single. You guys see my swing all the time. But yeah, I'm trying to make something happen.''
     
Through his recent dip, Napoli has been able to maintain an even disposition without letting his frustration show.
     
"It's what we do,'' shrugged Napoli. "You can't get too high, you can't get too low. You've got to stay at that even line. I felt good to hit that tonight, I definitely did. But it's over with and we didn't win, so we'll get out here tomorrow and try to get a victory and try to win the series.''