Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Texas Rangers [Print without images]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Dazzling Dozen: Napoli sends Texas home

By Richard Durrett

You'll notice that as we work our way near the top of the Dazzling Dozen that we'll be looking at a lot more games near the end of the season and in the postseason. That's what happens when you go to a World Series.

No. 8: Mike Napoli sends everyone home

Michael Young and Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli celebrates his two-run home run with Michael Young in the ninth inning.
The Rangers came into Anaheim for the final three-game series of the regular season having already locked up the AL West title. But there was still plenty to play for against the Angels. The Tigers were sitting one game back of the Rangers and Detroit held the tiebreaker in the race for the No. 2 seed. So while manager Ron Washington picked some days to rest his regulars, he essentially played his normal lineup in an effort to secure home-field advantage in the first round and in the second round if Texas played the Tigers.

Going into the final game of the season Sept. 28, the Rangers knew that a win meant they'd start at home against either Boston or Tampa Bay. A loss and they would be headng to New York to play the Yankees. Players admitted they were watching the scoreboard even during the game, knowing that if the Tigers lost, Texas would be going home anyway. Detroit won, putting pressure on the Rangers to follow suit.

Mike Napoli made sure they did. He hit a homer in the second inning and then, with the game tied at 1 in the ninth, Napoli blasted a 3-1 pitch from Angels closer Jordan Walden down the left field line and inside the foul pole.

PODCAST
Rangers catcher Mike Napoli dishes on his plans during the offseason, his love for the Cowboys and much more.

Listen Listen
"I know Walden throws pretty hard, so I was trying to get my barrel out front a little bit," Napoli said after that game. "I got lucky enough to get a pitch I could do that with. It was a great feeling. It got us home-field advantage and we're all happy in here."

It was Napoli's 29th and 30th home runs of the season. He finished with 75 RBIs and a .320 batting average -- all of those numbers career highs.

For more on that game, read here.

What it meant: The Rangers sat in the clubhouse and watched a crazy night unfold. Tampa Bay made a remarkable comeback to win and the Red Sox fell to the Orioles in a walk-off loss, meaning the Rays made the postseason and the Red Sox didn't. So Texas flew home to face Tampa Bay.

The aftermath: The win meant the Rangers avoided the long plane ride to New York to face the Yankees at Yankee Stadium less than 48 hours later. It also allowed them to get home-field advantage against the Tigers. Texas ended up winning the first two games in Arlington on their way to a six-game ALCS win to advance to their second straight World Series.