Texas Rangers: 2013 Playoffs
But Napoli, who would have likely been the 2011 World Series MVP had the Rangers finished the job, told the Boston Herald last week prior to the World Series, that it's motivated him ever since he left St. Louis after a loss in Game 7.
"I think about it all the time," Napoli told the newspaper. "I'll be home, sitting on the couch watching baseball, and you always play the what-ifs. What if I called a slider there (to Freese)? Or what if Nelly caught that ball? You go through that all the time. It hurts to this day. It was so close. That's the closest you could possibly be, and I was right there -- twice. For me, it took a while to get over. I don't think I'll ever get over it."
Now, he has an opportunity. Again. Napoli had to watch most of the three games in St. Louis without the DH in play. But with David Ortiz shifting back to DH, Napoli should be at first base Wednesday night as the Red Sox try to win the World Series at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918.
Napoli is easy to pull for. He's a good guy, a hard worker and someone who constantly supports his teammates. Perhaps in the next few days, he'll also win a title.
3 REASONS RANGERS WIN:
1: Momentum. This team has a bunch of that right now, and it's not as if they have to worry about travel or anything else. They can treat this like a continuation of the week. It's been a really good week. They are getting clutch hits. The starting pitching has been solid, and the bullpen has been lights out. The Rangers are playing confident baseball. No reason to think it won't continue.
2: Nelson Cruz. No other playoff team welcomes the kind of bat the Rangers do. Cruz, whose 50-game suspension ended after Sunday's final pitch, is the kind of streaky player who can carry an offense. He hasn't played in a big league game since early August, but that might not matter. He's a force to be reckoned with and he'll be in there for Game 163. He said Sunday that he's excited to have a chance to help the team he left because of the suspension early last month.
3: David Price. Seems strange to put him in there, but take a look at his numbers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in his career. They are ugly. He's got a 10.26 ERA in his career in Arlington, though he hasn't pitched in Texas since August 2012. His postseason numbers against Texas aren't great, either. He's 0-3 with a 4.66 ERA in three American League Division Series starts in 2010 and 2011. If the Rangers hit him like they have in the past, it's a recipe for moving on to Cleveland on Wednesday.
3 REASONS RANGERS LOSE:
1: Price. No, that's not a typo. The reality is that, while Price hasn't been the same pitcher in 2013 that he was in 2012, he's still a Cy Young Award winner. He'd like nothing better than to finally beat the Rangers in a game that matters, and he has that opportunity. If the Price of last season shows up, it could be a long night for the Rangers.
2: Tired bullpen. The Rangers' relief corps has been tremendous this week. They've also been worked hard. There was no choice, of course. Any loss would have meant the end of Texas' season. But Joe Nathan and Tanner Scheppers have pitched in each of the past four games. Do they have a fifth straight game in them? Manager Ron Washington needs innings from his starter and some help from other arms in his bullpen.
3: Martin Perez. He's got 10 wins and hasn't looked like a rookie out on the mound of late. He also seemed very calm answering questions from the media in the clubhouse after Sunday's game. But what if he squints in the bright lights? That could change everything. Perez is a big X-factor in this game. That should be interesting to watch.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.