ARLINGTON, Texas – Mike Napoli once again came through in a big spot on Monday to lift the Texas Rangers within one win of their first World Series championship.
Napoli blew up stolen base attempts in the seventh and ninth innings by gunning down St. Louis baserunners, and delivered the knockout blow with a booming bases-loaded double in the bottom of the eighth in a 4-2 win over the Cardinals.
“I’m glad I can help to contribute,” the catcher told reporters after belting his second home run of the Fall Classic and collecting his series-leading ninth RBI.
“Anybody in this lineup can do it,” said Napoli, who joined the Rangers this season after playing his first five seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.
Texas overcame a 2-0 first-inning deficit with solo home runs by Mitch Moreland in the third and Adrian Beltre in the sixth.
“You’ve got to give Beltre credit for hitting the homer to tie the game up,” Napoli said. “If he doesn’t do that, I don’t have a chance to do that in the eighth inning. We all do it together.”
Napoli also takes pride in his fielding, which had not been considered his strong suit during his years with the Angels.
“I want to be a complete player,” said Napoli, who belted 30 homers this season and has always been known as a power hitter. He blasted a three-run homer in Sunday’s 4-0 victory.
“I’m not just here trying to be an offensive player. My job is to get pitchers through innings, give them a quality start, try to get us a win. I’m trying hard on the defensive side. That’s my main goal.
“And then when I come up to hit, I go to hit.”
Napoli was batting eighth in the batting order as manager Ron Washington wanted a right-handed hitter in between two lefties at the end of the lineup against the Cardinals’ tough right-hander Chris Carpenter.
The 29-year-old Napoli said he was unconcerned.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “It’s a team thing. Whatever Wash wants me to do, I’m going to do. We’ve got a deep lineup and we all do it together.”
Washington said he was not surprised by the significant impact Napoli has had on the team.
“He came in as advertised as far as power, on base percentage,” he said. “And my personal observation, I’ve always admired the way he received when he was in Anaheim.
“So watching him now on a daily basis, I know my thoughts of him were correct, and he hasn’t proved me wrong in any respect as far as his game goes.
“He certainly knows how to play baseball, and he was taught well.”