Headed to his first All-Star game mired in an awful hitting slump, Rangers catcher Mike Napoli was due up in the bottom of the 13th inning Sunday with the score tied, no outs and runners on first and second.
Napoli was 0-for-4 with a couple of strikeouts in the game as his average had fallen to .227. Would manager Ron Washington have him sacrifice bunt to move the runner to third? Would Washington pinch hit and have someone else try to move the runners over.
No and no.
Showing the faith and trust that have become Washington's trademarks as Texas' manager, Washington sent Napoli to the plate to swing away.
"Never was I thinking about pinch hitting for Napoli," Washington said. "I believe one swing of the bat, Napoli can come out of wherever he is. He’s a big part of our production and the only way he’s going to produce is for him to keep being in there. I never thought one time about bunting Napoli or putting anyone in there to bunt for Napoli. I was going to let Napoli win that game right there."
He didn't win it, but he helped the cause with a grounder down the third-base line. Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe made the stop behind the bag but had no play at any base. He sent the throw to first base, but it was well off line and Napoli would have beat it out anyway, loading the bases.
Craig Gentry couldn't unlock the 3-3 tie and end a long night. His bouncer to shortstop got the lead runner at the plate on a force play. But the next batter, Ian Kinsler, smacked a liner to deep left, well over the drawn-in outfield for the 4-3 victory.