Notes: Napoli's night off not injury-related

Notes: Napoli's night off not injury-related
June 27, 2013, 7:00 pm
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BOSTON – First baseman Mike Napoli is not in the starting lineup Thursday night for the first game of a four-game series against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.  While manager John Farrell said his decision was based on the match-up, getting left-handed hitting Mike Carp the start against Toronto righty Chien-Ming Wang, it’s also a chance to get Napoli a day off.
Napoli is 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout in his career against Wang. Carp has never faced Wang.
Napoli, who was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in both hips before the season, has played in 73 of the Red Sox first 80 games this season.  He is hitting .264 with nine home runs, 53 RBI, a .447 slugging percentage,  and .344 on-base percentage. He is also second in the American League with 98 strikeouts, to Houston’s Chris Carter, who has 108.
In 18 games this month, Napoli is batting .273, with a .333 slugging percentage, and .355 on-base percentage. He has just two extra-base hits – a home run on June 1 at Yankee Stadium, and a double June 13 at Baltimore. In 66 at-bats this month he has struck out 20 times.
His hips are not a factor, manager John Farrell said.
“No hip issue involved here,” Farrell said. “I think at times his swing can get a little bit long but that’s no different than anybody else who’s playing every single day. If we can balance day of rest in between to keep him fresh, that’s in addition to matchup, that’s what we’re looking to do.”
The Blue Jays enter Fenway as the hottest team in baseball. They had an 11-game winning streak end earlier this week and lead the majors with a .727 winning percentage in June, going 16-6, outscoring their opponents 110-66.  They lead the AL in home runs with 31 and have posted a major league-best 2.46 ERA, .223 opponents’’ average, and 1.11 WHIP this month.
After the Blue Jays’ disappointing start to their season, Farrell, the team’s manager the last two seasons, is no surprised to see them pick up the pace.
“I think everybody in the game saw them to be a very strong team,” he said. “Just from the outside looking in, they’re pitching much more consistent, their bullpens’ been outstanding. Obviously, the guy we’re going to go up against tonight, Wang, has given them a lift. So the fact that they’re above .500, they’re clearly in the hunt in this division is to surprising I don’t think to anyone.”
Four games against the division-leading Red Sox could be a good test for Toronto.
“I can’t speak to what the thought is in their clubhouse,” Farrell said. “I know that we’ll be challenged this weekend. We don’t’ look at any series differently than it’s any club in our division. They come in having played much better in the month of June. So I don’t’ think where they are today is a surprise to anyone around the game, and that is you’ve got five teams that are clearly within striking distance of the division title.”