The homer and the block for Mike Napoli

May, 28, 2012
5/28/12
11:02
PM CT
RangersAP Photo/Brandon WadeMike Napoli holds up the ball after tagging Seattle's Brendan Ryan out at home.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mike Napoli was busy for the Texas Rangers on Monday night.

PODCAST
Rangers catcher Mike Napoli talks about the play he made at home plate in the eighth inning against the Mariners, what exactly Craig Gentry was doing and more.

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He smashed a three-run home run to right field, breaking a 1-1 tie, and his block of home plate in the eighth inning kept the Rangers with a little more cushion against Seattle.

After a 4-2, Rangers win, Napoli was sought after by reporters in the clubhouse.

He seems to be breaking out of his slump. He was mired in a 3-for-25 spell before his two-hit game Sunday and then his three-RBI night against the Mariners.

But leave it to Ron Washington to bring everything to reality.

"That was a big hit for us. We certainly needed it and he needed it for his own well being," the manager said. "But you don't come out of a slump in two days. You just got to keep swinging. I think he'll let you know in the next week or so if he's out of a slump. He's starting to feel much better up there at the plate and (what) we got out of him tonight, we certainly needed."

What almost gets lost with the Napoli homer is his play at the plate.

With the Rangers leading 4-1 in the eighth, Seattle's Brendan Ryan hit a shot to center that was misplayed by center fielder Craig Gentry, who dived for the ball and let it skip past him to the wall.

"Don't leave your feet," Washington said. "If you're off your feet you need to catch it."

The hit drove in one run, but Nelson Cruz tracked the ball down against the wall in center and threw a strike to Ian Kinsler, the cutoff man. Kinsler said before getting the throw he peeked to see Ryan round second and get the go sign from third-base coach Jeff Datz.

"I was going to make the throw regardless," Kinsler said.

The throw was where Kinsler wanted it, slightly up the line and high. Napoli blocked the plate with his left leg and placed a tag on the left arm of a sliding Ryan, who was called out at home.

"I just trying to block the plate. I knew it was going to be a close play," Napoli said. "I was able to stick my foot in front and Ian gave me a good throw and I was able to block the plate."

Napoli's night started off slowly as he struck out twice against Kevin Millwood, who pitched well against his former team. Millwood allowed one run over five innings. He struck out five but left after throwing 97 pitches.

Napoli came up in the sixth inning with a chance to make a mark against reliever Steve Delabar. With two on and one out, Napoli sent a fastball that hit the facade in right for a 4-1 Rangers lead.

"Those are over and done with," Napoli said of his strikeouts. "I keep moving on, even if I have a good at-bat or not. It's past and you just try to build of the previous at-bat and in this game you have to let things go and move on to the next. Just trying to go up there and give a tough at-bat every time."
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Alex Rios
BA HR RBI R
.333 1 10 8
OTHER LEADERS
HRP. Fielder 2
RBIA. Rios 10
RE. Andrus 11
OPSS. Choo .895
WM. Perez 3
ERAY. Darvish 0.82
SOY. Darvish 23