BOSTON Daniel Nava returned to the starting lineup Wednesday night, going 4-for-5 to lead the Red Sox in the hit column with two runs scored in the 15-5 win over the Rays at Fenway Park.
Nava tied his career high for hits in a game, which he set on June 1 in Toronto, as he raised his average from .309 to .333.
Nava ho hum, hes well rested, Valentine said, tongue in cheek. Hes a very good player, playing very well. He hit four different types of pitches tonight too. Hes in a nice little groove. Glad hes healthy and back.
Nava had appeared in the previous four games, but had not started since June 9. He was scratched from the next days starting lineup just before game time because of a sore left hand. His hand, obviously, is much better.
The hands feeling really good, he said. Its felt good for a couple days. Weve just been making sure that its progressing in the right direction. You dont want to push it too quick and then send it a couple days backwards. So I think thats the thinking we had in the whole situation.
In 13 games since June 1, Nava is hitting .375, going 16-for-37, with eight runs scored, and multiple hits in five games in that stretch.
Part of his success comes from his ability to see many pitches, being selective and waiting for the one he can handle. In his five at-bats Wednesday, he saw 21 pitches.
Hes a good hitter, said Mike Aviles. You look at what hes done so far. He comes up and hes very patient and I think if the balls not where he wants, he doesnt swing. So when you have an eye like that, it benefits you. I wish I had an eye like that because I cant take that many pitches. But he takes a bunch of pitches because its not the one that he knows he can do something with. So it works out well and hes done a great job for us.
He has started eight games in the lead-off spot this season, batting .344 (11-for-32).
Batting leadoff is not that much different just because my approach is generally the same, he said. Its work the count, get the pitch that I want and then if I get the two strikes, its still put a good swing on a ball. So nothing really changes except that when youre the lead-off guy the first time youre actually a true lead-off batter. So I think thats the only time it changes because I do try and see more pitches.
Nava didnt receive an invitation to major league spring training this year. He started the season with Triple-A Pawtucket, getting called up on May 10 because of injuries to other outfielders. Still, he takes a game like this, with a career-high in hits, in stride.
No more than all the other ones, to be totally honest, he said of what it means to him. I dont set different games in higher esteem or whatever because its baseball and we have a lot of games left. We got a good little, some momentum going and well take the ones when we can get them . . . The lineup we have is good. Just be yourself.