There have been plenty of ups and downs this season at the plate for Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli, but that comes with who he is as a player -- one of the streakiest hitters in the game.
This hasn’t changed how manager John Farrell has viewed him as he has constantly stuck with him all season long despite going throw some difficult stretches and finishing fourth in the American League with 187 strikeouts in the regular season.
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“He's put up big numbers for us and along with that comes some strikeouts,” Farrell told reporters following Game 3. “And those have been present during the series, and all season long. But when he gets into that stretch run where he's on the right side of streakiness, he can carry us and he has carried us. Whether it's September or back in April for the first five, six weeks of the season. We can't turn away from a guy that's got that in his résumé or his track record just because he's in a little bit of a downturn.”
Farrell’s faith in Napoli certainly paid dividends this week as he delivered two of the biggest hits in the Red Sox season with his solo home run in Game 3 in their 1-0 win and then another solo home run in Game 5 getting the offense going in their 4-3 win in Game 5 Thursday night.
Napoli entered his at-bat in the seventh inning of Game 3 0-for-6 with six strikeouts in the series, including being benched in Game 2, but he put all that behind him and took a Justin Verlander offering into the left field seats, proving to be the game-winning run and giving the Red Sox a 2-1 series lead at the time.
After a 2-for-4 outing in Game 4’s loss, Napoli was right back at it in Game 5 getting the Red Sox going crushing a Anibal Sanchez pitch 460 feet to dead-center field for a solo home run giving the Sox a 1-0 lead and igniting a three-run second inning. He added a double and single, finishing a triple shy of the first-ever cycle in postseason history.
Going along with his streakiness, after going 0-for-6 before his home run in Game 3, Napoli is now 5 for his last 9 in the series with two home runs and has put the Red Sox offense on his back at the most critical of times.
"I've been feeling good all series," Napoli told reporters. "I can't really put my finger on it, just going up there trying to give a tough at‑bat every time. I got some pitches that I could handle."
With the Red Sox hitting .133 with 43 strikeouts as a team going into Game 3 and .186 with 53 strikeouts going into Game 5, the Red Sox needed a spark offensively and the streaky Napoli provided it, rewarding his manager for sticking with him and putting the club one win away from reaching the World Series.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @Hannable84.