Sunday, September 30, 2012
Mike Napoli continues to torment former team
By Richard Durrett
ARLINGTON, Texas -- If it's a late-season game against the Los Angeles Angels with something on the line, count on catcher Mike Napoli to have a big impact.
Despite struggling for much of the season to find the hitting stroke that powered him to a memorable second half and postseason in 2011, Napoli found his swing just in time to vault the Rangers into the playoffs and likely end the Angels' season.
Napoli had two home runs, a double and six RBIs in Sunday's 8-7 win in the second game of a doubleheader, helping the Rangers turn around an early 4-0 deficit and head to Oakland needing just one win to secure a third consecutive AL West title. The victory before boarding the plane to California was enough to clinch a playoff spot for the Rangers.
"I did something to help us win," Napoli said. "We needed to win tonight and it was a good feeling."
Napoli is now hitting .396 in 33 career games against his former team with 10 doubles, a triple, 12 homers, 25 runs and 25 RBIs. His hits also seems to be big ones. It was last season that Napoli hit two home runs in Anaheim to clinch home field in the ALDS for the Rangers, allowing them to fly to Arlington rather than New York to start the postseason.
"That’s pretty incredible to be able to treat your former team that way," outfielder David Murphy said. "There’s always a little added incentive when you’re playing against the team that traded you away or a team that you once played for. That incentive seems to always be there when he plays against them. He definitely takes it out on them."
The loss means the Angels are three games behind the A's in the wild-card race with three to play. They need to sweep Seattle and hope the Rangers sweep the A's to force a playoff for that wild-card spot.
"Sometimes there’s going to be that one hitter you don’t match up that well against," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Mike has power, but he’s hitting .200. Against us, those numbers are obviously off the charts. We know what we need to do. Every pitcher is going to be different. But there’s not one book on a hitter that’s going to fall into place everybody makes a pitch here or a pitch there.
"A lot of it has to do with matchups and sometimes some pitchers just aren’t able to get to some spots where you can make pitches and minimize some power and hopefully get outs. Mike’s really hit the ball well against us, no doubt."