The Boston Red Sox played a solid game in every phase Sunday en route to a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Mike Napoli was not a part of that win for very long.
Napoli was called out on strikes during the second inning in his only at-bat of the game. The pitch he was called out on was a borderline strike at best, but it really appeared to be a ball low and outside. Napoli already had dropped his bat and bent over to take off his shinguard when home plate umpire Tripp Gibson III rung him up.
A shocked Napoli turned around in disbelief and walked away, though he appeared to say something else over his shoulder in the process. Gibson threw him out immediately.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the game he was just as displeased with the call as Napoli, who immediately threw his hands up in frustration and got his money’s worth with Gibson. Based on his description of the events, he seems to be pretty justified in his disappointment.
Reporters asked Farrell if he was surprised by how short the leash was for Napoli to vent his thoughts on the call.
“Yeah, you know, he drops his bat and obviously he disputed the call, but then he was ejected for not picking his bat up,” Farrell explained. “To me that?s … I don?t know. I think we all have an issue with that. That?s why we have bat boys.
“He asked him to pick his bat up and he didn?t pick it up and he threw him out.”
If that’s the case, it seems pretty ridiculous. Of course, Napoli was pretty forthcoming with his frustrations with the umpires Friday, so it could have been that the entire crew simply was fed up with him.
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Let’s take a look at some other notes from the Red Sox’s win:
— Xander Bogaerts should be an All Star.
The Red Sox shortstop led off the fourth with a base hit, the team’s first leadoff hit of any inning to that point. He scored moments later when David Ortiz launched a two-run homer to right field off Rays starter Chris Archer.
Bogaerts later doubled in the sixth inning, stole third and scored on Pablo Sandoval’s sacrifice fly.
With the 2-for-4 performance, Bogaerts raised his batting average to .294, which trails just Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, a former Red Sox, for the best among American League shortstops. His 31 RBIs also rank first among qualifying shortstops.
Each team is awarded at least one representative in the Midsummer Classic. If the Red Sox are held to only one, Bogaerts should be the guy.
— Joe Kelly and Shane Victorino both played for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday. Victorino was in the the fifth game of his current rehab assignment and went 1-for-4 with a base hit and strikeout. He batted second and played right field.
Kelly had a decent performance (two runs allowed in seven innings with four strikeouts), but he still has work to do.
— Justin Masterson lowered his ERA to 5.58 after throwing five innings of one-run baseball. He entered the game with a 6.37 ERA in his previous seven starts.
Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara lowered their ERAs to 2.62 and 3.12, respectively. Tazawa is another strong candidate for the All-Star Game, though it’s highly unlikely he’ll get the nod.
— Is Alejandro De Aza the spark plug the Red Sox were looking for?
Last season, De Aza was shipped from the Chicago White Sox to the Baltimore Orioles on Aug. 30. He was inserted into the starting lineup Sept. 2, and the O’s won their next eight games and 11 of 12 overall. They won the AL East and eventually went on to the ALCS. De Aza helped solidify Baltimore’s outfield defense and hit .293 in the process.
In parts of 18 games with the Red Sox, De Aza has hit .288, and the day he took over a full-time starting role in the outfield (June 16), the team broke its season-long seven-game losing streak. Since that day, the Red Sox have gone 7-5, and De Aza has owned a .351 batting average.
He might just be the most unexpected hero the team could have imagined.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images