Napoli's opposite-field hits a good sign for Sox

Napoli's opposite-field hits a good sign for Sox
June 14, 2014, 12:00 am
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BOSTON -- Mike Napoli -- he of the half-unbuttoned jersey, the mammoth swing, and the pull-side power stroke -- produced a pair of hits on Friday night that looked like they came off the bat of a slap hitter.

He twice went to the opposite field against Indians pitching, resulting in two hits, two RBI and three runs scored in a 10-3 victory.

It wasn't a homer over the Sports Authority baggy, but as far as Napoli was concerned it was a good sign nonetheless.

For opposing pitchers, it may be a frightening one.

"It means I'm keeping my front shoulder in and staying through the ball," Napoli said of going to the opposite field. "That's a big part of my game. When I'm going right, I'm hitting balls that way. And I'm feeling pretty good."

Napoli has looked dialed in since making his return from an injured finger on June 8 and hit a solo shot against the Tigers. In six games he has four RBI despite continuing to deal with some discomfort from his ailing digit. 

"It bothers me a little bit but it's ten times better than what it was," he said. "Still getting my treatment, kind of getting over that hump where it's starting to get better."

On Friday his two-run double to right in the third inning gave the Red Sox a 5-3 lead. His single in the seventh scored Dustin Pedroia and contributed to a four-run frame.

As Napoli heals, the Red Sox lineup has been slowly righting itself. The first baseman's presence has a ripple effect on the rest of the batting order, culminating in Friday night's flood of runs -- a season-high. 

"As soon as he returned to the lineup, it not only lengthened it out, it also gave us another middle-of-the-order presence. Deep at-bats, extra-base potential. Tonight, seeing him go the other way, that's when Mike is locked in pretty good. They made some good pitches on the outer part of the plate and he went with them. He's in a pretty good place." 

With Napoli swinging the bat well, so are the Red Sox.