It’s all starting to come together for the Boston Red Sox. The pitching has been otherworldly thus far, and now the offense is starting to heat up. Specifically, slugger Mike Napoli has finally woken up, as he is beginning to make consistent line-drive-type contact at the plate.
Following a very sluggish start with the bat, Napoli is showing Red Sox fans why the team spent so much time on him during the off-season. After the first baseman failed his preliminary physical, the Red Sox could have just walked away. But instead, they worked out a new deal, not wanting to lose his bat to another team.
After going 2-5 on Wednesday night against the Cleveland Indians, Napoli has raised his average to a respectable .250—he was at .176 a week ago. The 31-year-old cleanup hitter leads the team with seven doubles and 16 runs batted in. He’s now gotten at least one hit in each of his last six games.
Though strikeouts continue to plague him (he’s whiffed 19 times in 14 games), Napoli’s value is in his ability to drive in runs. And things should only get better once designated hitter David Ortiz returns from injury.
Ortiz has targeted this Friday as a date for his potential return to the lineup. His powerful left-handed presence should provide a huge boost in the number of fastballs that Napoli will get going forward. Napoli’s played in some great lineups in the past, but he’s never had a slugger like Ortiz providing protection behind him. This will be a tandem that, when healthy, should produce a ton of runs.
The Red Sox will look for a series sweep on Thursday in Cleveland, and then it’s back to Fenway Park for a weekend matchup with the Kansas City Royals.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)