Nava wins game-changing duel with Verlander

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Nava wins game-changing duel with Verlander

BOSTON Daniel Nava had faced other pitchers who throw 100 miles per hour before. But he had never faced one who is also the reigning American League Cy Young Award and MVP. Until Tuesday night, that is.

Clearly, the advantage has to go to the pitcher with all the hardware. Right?

Batting in the lead-off spot, facing Justin Verlander for the first time, Nava saw three pitches none faster than 92 mph in his first at-bat against the Tigers right-hander, grounding out weekly to third base. He walked on seven pitches in his second at-bat, in the third inning. That sett the stage for his next duel with Verlander.

With Red Sox holding a slim one-run lead, the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth, Nava showed little sign of intimidation facing the Tigers right-hander with the blazing fastball.
Verlander started Nava with a 99-mph fastball, which Nava fouled back. Verlanders next pitch came in at 100 mph for a ball, followed by an 81-mph curveball, making the count 2-1. The next pitch at 100 mph -- high and inside made it 3-1. Nava swung and missed at 99-mph fastball, setting the runners in motion for Verlanders next pitch a 100-mph fastball which Nava laced into left field for a three-run double.

Nava had just one hit against Verlander. But his lone hit gave the Sox and starter Daniel Bard a comfortable 4-0 lead to hold off the Tigers and Verlander.

It was the first bases-loaded hit off Verlander this season, and the first hit to drive in three or more runs off him since a three-run home run by Seattles Justin Smoak on April 27, 2011.

He gave me a tough at-bat, Verlander said. I really feel like the turning point in that at bat was the 1-1 curveball I tried to throw. I threw it for a ball, got myself behind in the count and then threw another ball. So then Im 3-1, and he knows whats coming. He hit it down the line for a double. Obviously that was the turning point in the game.

Mostly Im disappointed about is not being able to get ahead of him. I think if Im ahead in that situation, hes not able to get to the fastball in that situation.

Nava knew he would have to be a quick study if he were to have any success against Verlander.

Based off the first at-bat, I was really just trying to pick the ball up, said Nava. I was having a hard time picking the ball up. So from that point, got that 3-1 pitch that I swung through. So I was saying I need to shorten my swing up. Fortunately I got a pitch to do that with.

I really had to make some adjustments because I got owned that first at-bat.

The three runs proved to be the difference in the game, as the Red Sox beat the Tigers, 6-3, climbing above .500, at 25-24, for the first time this season.

Obviously I was excited to get that hit because there were three guys on and knowing that Verlander is obviously a pitcher with great stuff, you dont know how many opportunities youre going to get like that, Nava said.

So for us to have guys on and get them to work a little bit with what he has, were trying to take advantage of it and make the most of it. So it was just a good opportunity for the guys ahead to get some knocks and then fortunately it worked out the way it did. But its a team gameand thats what its about.

Although the numbers were staring at him, Nava didnt look at the velocity readings on the center field video board.

I didnt want to look up there, because I wanted to be as comfortable as I could in the box and how comfortable really are you with a guy whos that good? Nava said. So I knew that it was coming hard, but thats all I knew. I didnt know it was 100 mph. Thats one less thing you need to worry about.

Nava, who made his big league debut in 2010 but played all of 2011 in the minors, was called up May 10. In 19 games, he is batting .276 with two home runs and 15 RBI. He has batted lead-off the last two games. Before Monday, he had appeared in just three games in the lead-off spot, all in 2010, the last with one at-bat as a pinch hitter. His last start in the No. 1 slot was Sept. 6 that season.

Manager Bobby Valentine has said Nava, who was not even on his radar in spring training, has certainly earned his attention. Nava has reached base safely in 17 of the 19 games hes played.

Well Ive been talking about Daniel Nava, Valentine said. Monday night saw him at a restaurant, told him hes making me look really good and I appreciate itThat at-bat was as good an at-bat as Ive seen in years. 100 mph pitch on a 3-2 count down the line in left, after just missing a 3-1 pitch that I knew he really wanted. I thought it was a very, very good at-bat.

I wasnt looking at the speed but I was looking at the competition and it was one of those things I think you all probably appreciate, the fans do, but guys in in uniform appreciate it more, it was mano a mano. It was a great competition. And Im proud of him. Im happy hes on my team.

Chris Sale not concerned about which starter is Red Sox' ace

Chris Sale not concerned about which starter is Red Sox' ace

Trenni sits with Chris Sale and David Price during spring training in Fort Meyers.

Moreland not worried about filling Ortiz's shoes because 'there's no replacing him'

Moreland not worried about filling Ortiz's shoes because 'there's no replacing him'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mitch Moreland knows he's likely the only new player in Boston's lineup since David Ortiz retired at the end of last season.

He's just not listening to those who say he needs to replace Big Papi's lofty production.

"I try not to hear it because there's no replacing that guy," said the 31-year-old first baseman, who signed a one-year, $5.5-million deal with the Red Sox during the offseason.

"I think it's going to be more of a team effort," he said. "Obviously we picked up two big arms as well, and it's a very balanced club."

After playing his first six-plus seasons in the majors with the Texas Rangers, Moreland is with a new organization for the first time in his career. So far, he said, the move has been smooth.

"They welcomed me from Day One," he said. "Handshakes and hugs right off the bat. It's going to be a lot of fun. You can see why they had so much success last year."

Coming off a subpar 2016 with a .233 batting average, 22 homers and 60 RBI, Moreland tested free agency. He wanted to go to a team that had a good chance at competing for a championship -- like he felt with the Rangers.

"Something that was at the top of my list as a player," he said. "If I was going to be on a team, I wanted a team that had a chance to win. It makes it that much more fun to come to the park every day when something's on the line and you're fighting for a chance to play in the playoffs, fighting to win the division and fighting to win a World Series."

A first-time Gold Glove winner last season, Moreland knows the defending A.L. East champion Red Sox wanted his defensive skills at first to allow Hanley Ramirez to shift to Ortiz's vacated DH spot.

"It gives you a little more confidence," Moreland said. "I take pride in that. That's going to be my main goal, to go out and show what they saw."

A left-handed batter like Ortiz, Moreland knows some people will expect him to fill the void offensively because of which side of the plate he bats from.

"I think it'll be a group effort picking up what will be missing," he said. "There's no replacing that guy."

Manager John Farrell also said the club needs to move on from Ortiz so Moreland and everyone else can relax and focus on their own game.

"David's effect on the lineup was felt by a number of people. We know opponents would game plan for David," Farrell said. "I think it's important for our guys - as we put David out of our mind, in a good way - that it's still a focus on what their strengths are in the strike zone."

The transition may be easy for Moreland so far, but one thing has certainly changed: spending spring training in Florida instead of Arizona.

"Fishing's a lot different than Arizona, so that's nice," he said.

NOTES: "We're getting a firsthand look to why he's been so successful and an elite pitcher," Farrell said after left-hander Chris Sale pitched batting practice. The Red Sox acquired Sale from the Chicago White Sox in an offseason trade for four prospects. They also acquired right-handed, hard-throwing setup man Tyler Thornburg from Milwaukee . . . Farrell said righty Steven Wright, who missed the final two months of the season with a shoulder injury, "was unrestricted in his throwing." . . . The Red Sox will have a shorter workout Tuesday with the players association set to talk to the team and the organization's annual charity golf tournament in the afternoon.