Monday, April 22, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 9, A's 6
By Gordon Edes
BOSTON -- How cold was it in the Fens Monday night?
So cold that when David Ortiz spat into his batting gloves and clapped, the Red Sox batboy had to come to the plate with an ice pick so he could separate his hands.
How hot was Mike Napoli Monday night?
So hot that he still played with the top buttons of his jersey undone, as if he was in his native south Florida, and drove in five more runs with a second-inning double and fifth-inning grand slam in Boston’s 9-6 win over the Oakland Athletics before a blanketed crowd of 28,926.
Napoli’s only visible concession to temperatures that dipped into the 30s (with wind chill factored in) was an undershirt beneath his jersey, but even that had short sleeves, the kind he wears even on the warmest of afternoons. These days, Napoli is so impervious to any discomfort that he even ignored the fastball with which Oakland starter A.J. Griffin drilled him in the crook of his right elbow in the fourth inning.
Napoli has 25 RBIs, catapulting him into the major league lead in that category. With seven games left in the month, Napoli is within striking distance of the club record for RBIs in April, which is 31, set by Manny Ramirez in 2001. In just 83 plate appearances, Napoli is nearly halfway to the total number of runs he drove in last season (56) in 417 plate appearances.
The RBI doesn’t enjoy the prestige it once did, with 21st-century statistical analysts disparaging it as a mere “counting” stat, dependent on team and batting-order performance. They’re right, of course. But at his current rate (25 RBIs in 19 games), which will be impossible to maintain, Napoli would finish the season with 213 RBIs, 23 more than Hack Wilson’s record of 190. That would light up silos in Lawrence, Kansas, to paraphrase Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy whenever he takes to tweaking Bill James.
Napoli’s home run, which was caught on the fly by an occupant of the first row of Monster seats in left-center field, was one of two longballs struck by the Red Sox.
Will Middlebrooks, who came into the game 4-for-43 since his three-homer game in Toronto April 7, hit a laser into the left-field seats for a three-run home run that gave the Sox a 4-2 lead in the fourth.
The win went to Felix Doubront, who survived a 30-pitch fifth inning in which Oakland cut the lead to 4-3 but left the bases loaded. Doubront went 6 2/3 innings, though even on such a cold night, it probably fried Sox manager John Farrell that he was forced to bring in Junichi Tazawa (and later Andrew Bailey) after Clayton Mortensen gave up three runs and Alex Wilson walked the only batter he faced.
The Athletics arrived in town with a 12-7 record, a half-game behind Texas, but were swept three straight by Tampa Bay in the Trop and have lost four in a row, their longest losing streak since losing nine in row May 22 to June 1 last season.
It looked like a Sox alumni game, with four former Sox players in the starting lineup -- Coco Crisp, Brandon Moss, Jed Lowrie and Josh Reddick. Oakland coaches Mike Gallego, Curt Young and Chili Davis all have Sox ties as well.
Bailey recorded a cheap save against his former team, pitching the ninth with a three-run lead. The save was the fourth for Bailey, but not before he walked leadoff man Chris Young to start the ninth, the eighth walk issued by Sox pitchers. He bounced back to whiff the next two hitters, giving him 17 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings, before pinch hitter John Jaso rolled out to first baseman Napoli to end it.