Napoli locks in with grand slam

Napoli locks in with grand slam
June 2, 2013, 12:15 am
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NEW YORK -- Mike Napoli's grand slam -- the fifth of his career and second this season -- may have been hit in the third inning of Saturday's 11-1 romp over the Yankees.    

But the seeds were planted in the second inning.    

That's when Napoli had a 10-pitch at-bat against Yankee starter Phil Hughes, ending with a sharp single to center.    

"He had a good at-bat against Hughes in the at-bat prior,'' said John Farrell. "He had a number of foul balls and ended up with a base hit.''    

"I was recognizing pitches pretty good tonight,'' said Napoli, "and in that first at-bat, I was battling, fouling some tough pitches off and I was able to get a base hit. So going into the next at-bat, I was pretty confident.''    

The extended at-bat gave Napoli a good look at Hughes and a sense of what he might try to throw him next time.    

Of course, it helped that the Yankees provided extra motivation in the following at-bat, when, with first base open and one-out, they elected to walk David Ortiz to get to Napoli.    

"That's a great feeling,'' sand Napoli. "It's my job to be (Ortiz's) protection and when something like that happens, it's my job to come through.''    

First, however, Napoli had to settle himself a bit. In those situations, hitters have a tendency to be a little jumpy, so intent are they in making their point.    

"I did (have to relax) a little bit after my first swing,'' acknowledged Napoli. "I just took a little deep breath and got back in there and tried to execute a plan. When I got to two strikes, I was just trying to get the ball in the outfield and get another run.''    

He got four of them, belting a pitch from Hughest deep to right center.    

It marked the second time that Napoli had taken advantage of an intentional walk to Ortiz in front of him. On May 1, against Toronto, the exact scenario presented itself and ended the same way - with Napoli clearing the bases.    

"I like protecting David,'' said Napoli, "and (making managers think twice) about doing that.''