Mike Napoli’s Breakout Couldn’t Come At Better Time For Boston Red Sox

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BOSTON — Something must have clicked 30,000 feet in the air. Mike Napoli has been a new man since arriving back at Fenway Park following the Red Sox’s recent 10-game road trip.

Napoli smoked two home runs Saturday to power Boston to an 8-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park. The first baseman, who has struggled for much of the season, suddenly looks locked in at the plate. And it couldn’t come at a better time for the Red Sox, who had lost three straight.

“The way I was hitting, it wasn’t helping us,” Napoli said after Saturday’s victory. “We’ve got a lot of good hitters in this lineup, and we’re definitely better than what we’ve been doing out there. We’ve just got to keep going, keep grinding and everyone in this clubhouse is going to do that.

“We know that we can be a great offense, but we’ve got to go out there and be able to do it.”

Napoli returned home Tuesday with a .162 average and a .551 OPS following a road trip in which he went 4-for-27 with 11 strikeouts in eight games. He hadn’t had a multihit game — let alone a multihomer game — since April 25, and it was reasonable to question how the Red Sox were going to address the issue because, at the time, Napoli’s woes made for a serious black hole within Boston’s stumbling lineup.

The Red Sox never truly arrived at a crossroads, however. Napoli posted back-to-back two-hit performances against one of his former teams, the Texas Rangers, while drilling his second home run of the season in the process. Finally, there was something to build on. And now, Napoli looks poised to ride one of his trademark hot streaks after beating up on his other former club on back-to-back nights.

“I feel pretty good. This is a time where I have to maintain what I’m doing right now in the cage and my (batting practice). I know where my hands have to get,” said Napoli, who has three homers in his last two games. “It’s a good feeling to go in there and be able to compete and not try to think what’s going wrong with my swing or anything. I’m going to try to keep that muscle memory.”

Napoli, whose homer Friday was a bright spot amid Boston’s disappointing 12-5 loss, wasted no time Saturday in leaving his mark. He homered into the Monster seats in the second inning to cut the Angels’ lead in half after Los Angeles jumped out to a 2-0 advantage against Red Sox starter Steven Wright.

Napoli wasn’t finished. He again got the best of Angels starter C.J. Wilson in the sixth inning, when he absolutely demolished a two-run homer over everything in left field to give the Red Sox a 4-2 edge.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Napoli’s effort was the manner in which he went yard. Napoli turned on a 3-2 fastball on the seventh pitch of his first at-bat in the second inning, and he took advantage of a hanging 3-1 curveball in the sixth inning. Talk about feasting on whatever the opponent throws your way.

Pummeling the Angels — the team that drafted him in 2000 and traded him in January 2011 — isn’t new to Napoli, as he owns the best all-time slugging percentage (.716) and OPS (1.163) against the Halos since 1961. But Napoli’s success against specific teams is neither here nor there. The important thing is he’s finally helping his current team at a time when the Red Sox need an infusion of energy.

You have to live with the peaks and valleys when it comes to Napoli. He’s a streaky hitter who might endure a rut every now and then, but he’s also capable of doing serious damage once he’s rolling.

And guess what, folks? He’s been rolling ever since hitting the Tarmac in Boston earlier this week.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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