Monday, October 3, 2011
Mike Napoli beats Rays with bat, arm, glove
By Richard Durrett
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Mike Napoli show of power, defense and clutch performances simply changed venues Monday.
He had a ridiculous second half of the regular season (.383 batting average with 18 homers and 42 RBIs), a crazy good September (.429 with eight homers and 19 RBIs) and became the second Ranger with multiple hits, runs and RBIs in an American League Division Series game (Juan Gonzalez) with his Game 2 performance in Arlington.
"He’s gotten so many big hits for us this year that you’d shudder to think where we’d be without him," Texas Rangers CEO and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan said.
Napoli only added to the Los Angeles Angels' disappointment in ever trading him with his performance in the Rangers' 4-3 victory in Game 3. Napoli helped guide Colby Lewis to six innings of one-hit ball and then got the bullpen through a tense final three innings.
He came to bat in the seventh inning with the Rangers down 1-0 and a runner at first. Napoli fell behind in the count 0-2 and fought off pitches before evening the count at 2-2. He then drilled a fastball into the seats in left to give the Rangers the lead.
But his biggest play might have been the next inning. After Mike Adams had given up a home run to Desmond Jennings to make it a 4-3 game, the reliever walked the next hitter, speedy B.J. Upton. Adams threw over to first six times and bench coach Jackie Moore decided on a pitchout on a 1-2 count. He guessed right, and Napoli fired a strike to second base to get Upton.
Napoli also made sure closer Neftali Feliz wasn't afraid to throw his slider, even after one hit the dirt and Napoli couldn't get it earlier that same inning.
"I told him in the dugout to throw it and I'd block it," Napoli said.
Feliz threw a good one and got Ben Zobrist to end the inning with runners at second and third.
Teammate Michael Young has called Napoli one of the best players in the big leagues right now.
"I work hard," Napoli said. "I work hard every day. I am in the cage every day working on my swing. Before the games, I work on my catching. I work with these pitchers and try to get the best out of them every day.
"So for him to say that, it means a lot. And I still have things to work on and try to get better. I'm trying to get better every day. So just hearing that from him is nice."