Editor's note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine’s words. Each game day, we will select the best Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.
Daniel Nava was in just his second game atop the Red Sox lineup, and the career minor leaguer was forced to lead off against the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young award winner.
Justin Verlander made quick work of Nava the first time through the order, inducing the outfielder into a slow-rolling groundout to third base. But after working a walk his next time at the dish, Nava was finally ready to counter Verlander's 100-mph fastball in his third plate appearance.
After whiffing on some 99-mph heat on a 1-1 count in the fourth inning, Nava settled himself down and focused all his attention on catching up with the high heat. Another 100-mph fastball came blazing across the plate when Nava whipped his bat around, as fast as lightning, and sent the ball deep into the left field corner to score three runs and put the Red Sox up 4-0 on the visiting Tigers.
Nava's double appeared to spark the Red Sox offense and helped cool the fire for Daniel Bard, who ended up throwing a solid 5 1/3 innings in his fifth win of the season on Tuesday. The hit may not mean much to the Red Sox in the grander scheme of the 2012 season, but Nava's ability to solve Verlander is a sign that he has indeed earned his place in the major leagues.
Manager Bobby Valentine was as impressed as anyone with the fight and spunk Nava showed throughout the at-bat.
"That at-bat was as good an at-bat as I've seen in years," Valentine said of Nava after Boston's 6-3 win. "It was a great competition."
Impressing your manager is an accomplishment on its own. But when your teammates have glowing remarks about your performance, that's when you know you've truly garnered a reputation for yourself.
"That's probably one of the best at-bats I've seen against possibly the best pitcher of our generation," Bard noted with a wide-eyed smile after the win.
Nava may still be best known for launching a grand slam off of Roy Halladay on the first pitch of his first major league at-bat — it's pretty hard to top that story. But working the best pitcher in baseball into a three-run, game-changing double is clear indication that Nava has earned a place on a major league roster.
If Nava continues hitting at the same impressive clip, with a .276 batting average, and finding his way on base with the same consistency, with a .429 OBP, he'll certainly create more of a reputation than just being a "one-hit wonder."