BOSTON -- When you’re sporting a .162 average after yet another hitless performance at the plate, a 3,000-mile flight from Seattle to Boston can seem like the worst thing imaginable.
After going 0-for-4 Sunday while the team was shut down by Mariners left-hander James Paxton, Napoli took advantage of the long flight back to Boston by talking about hitting with his good friend and clubhouse locker mate Dustin Pedroia.
The two looked over recent video of Napoli at the plate, noticing something that could be the cause of his struggles this season.
“I wasn't getting into my position,” Napoli said. “He pointed that out to me when we looked at video of what I’m doing now.”
Pedroia told Napoli that he needed to get back to the basics. He reminded him of what his role on the team is, and that in order to get back to being successful like he had the past two seasons he needed to simplify things at the plate.
"You're here to drive the ball out of the ballpark and take chances and be a big-time presence," Pedroia told him.
So, Napoli made some adjustments, putting them to the test Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers. Lo and behold, he was a big-time presence, collecting two hits, including a home run, and two RBIs in the Red Sox’s 4-3 win over the Rangers.
The two hits gave Napoli his first multi-hit game since April 25, a span in which he had struggled to pick up just 10 hits in his past 63 at-bats prior to Tuesday.
“It’s nice to contribute,” Napoli said. “I’ve been working hard to get back to my rhythm and where I need to be. So it was nice to be able to do that and contribute.”
Little has gone right for Napoli this season. After enduring a brutal surgery in the offseason to realign his jaw and help him sleep better at night, Napoli had high expectations for this year. Instead, he’s struggled mightily at the plate, unable to establish any consistency.
Even in his first at-bat with the changes he had made on Tuesday, Napoli struck out with the bases loaded and one out. He kept with the approach into his second at-bat, however, hammering a Yovani Gallardo curveball off the AAA sign on the Green Monster for a solo shot, his fourth homer of the year.
“That was kind of tough -- my first [at-bat] going back and trying to do my old way,” Napoli said of the strikeout. “My next at-bat, I wasn’t even thinking about that. Moved forward. That’s what you’ve got to do in this game.”
His next time up an inning later, Napoli hit an infield grounder that Elvis Andrus was unable to make a play on for an RBI single. Not as glorious as his home run, sure, but Red Sox manager John Farrell was still impressed.
“He played a very good game,” Farrell said. “The home run to the pull side on a breaking ball -- that's a pitch that he's been missing lately. And just a very good swing on that ball.”
Knowing what Napoli is capable of, along with what he provides defensively at first (he made a nice diving play on a Mitch Moreland line drive in the eighth), Farrell has stuck with him up until this point in the season. Now, Napoli hopes to reward him by continuing to work on the changes he’s made at the plate to improve on what’s been a disastrous season thus far.
“I’ve been through these before,” Napoli said. “I know I can be one at-bat away from feeling good. I’ve been grinding. It’s been frustrating because I feel so good.
“I’m not saying it’s fixed or anything. I had a good night, but I’ve got something to work on and a base to work off of.”
And, with that, Napoli’s confidant is sure that good things are around the corner.
“We know he's going to come out of it,” Pedroia said. “You can't keep him down for long."