Party like it’s 2016…..at Napoli’s
On Thursday evening, the long awaited “Party at Napoli’s” shirts arrived and went on sale at the Texas Rangers gift shop. Is it surprising that on the same day, Mike Napoli would go out and hit two home runs, including a 3 run walk off bomb into the upper deck in left field? It’s surprising indeed because in 2017 nothing has gone the way it should have.
The Rangers shouldn’t have so many blown saves. They shouldn’t have so many losses in 1 run games. They shouldn’t be without Adrian Beltre…..still. They shouldn’t have lost Cole Hamels to the DL and they should have a bullpen pitching like it’s the worst when it has the potential to be one of the best.
None of that mattered Thursday night though because Mike Napoli took the Rangers back to the magical land of 2016 where late game magic was an ordinary occurrence. It was a game the Rangers seemed destined to lose. Despite a solid start from Martin Perez, the Rangers found themselves in a 2-0 hole heading into the bottom of the 8th inning against Clayton Richard who dominated the Rangers from the outset. Up until the 8th, Richard had allowed just three base hits and one walk and had kept the Rangers off balance all night long. That all changed in the 8th as Mike Napoli greeted Richard with a lead off solo home run. A Carlos Gomez single would follow and just like that, having thrown just 90 pitches, Richard’s night was done.
The Rangers would threaten to tie it in the 8th and had Carlos Gomez on 3rd base with one out before Pete Kozma hit a rocket right at Erick Aybar and Delino Deshields struck out swinging. After Sam Dyson threw a scoreless top of the 9th, The Rangers came to bat and instead of going quietly they went vintage on us all. After Shin-Soo Choo flied out to left field, Elvis Andrus lined a single to centerfield. The next batter was Jonathan Lucroy who hit a flare to center that was almost hauled in by Manuel Margot. Andrus got a terrific read on the play and was already around second base when the ball glanced off Margot’s glove. Who cares if Elvis would’ve been doubled off to end the game, it didn’t happen and with 1 out, the Rangers had runners at the corners for Rougned Odor. On the first pitch he saw, Odor lined a ball the other way into left field to tie the game. Next up was Mike Napoli with two men on and still just one out. Closer Brandon Maurer got behind Napoli at 3-1 and instead of doing the safe thing, he went after him. That was the wrong choice……. Mike Napoli turned around his 3-1 offering and deposited it 448 feet away in the upper deck. Just like that we all remembered the joy we felt back in 2016. Just like that, we gained even more confidence that this Rangers team can indeed change their stripes this year. And just like that, for the first time in a long time, the Party at Napoli’s took place at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Pitching: Perez turns in solid effort and bullpen shuts it down for the second straight day
Martin Perez entered this game with a 1-5 record and he leaves it with a 1-5 record. Despite that, Perez pitched a very good game over all for the Rangers. The line for Perez was 6.1 innings pitched with 2 earned runs on 7 hits, 3 strike outs and 2 walks. Perez only threw 90 pitches on the evening and 58 of them went for strikes. Although he gave up 7 hits, they were all singles and he spread them around well. There was no meltdown inning for Perez and his only real hiccup came in his final inning when he gave up 2 hits and a walk to load the bases. Thankfully Tony Barnette was able to come in and retire both hitters he faced, though one of those outs was a sacrifice fly.
Speaking of Tony Barnette, he did a fantastic job on the night pitch 1.2 innings and retiring all 5 batters he faced. It was then up to Sam Dyson who gave up a one out single to Aybar on a play that Rougned Odor probably should’ve made before Odor redeemed himself with a fantastic tag on Aybars attempted steal just moments later. With the bases clear, Dyson gave up a harmless single before getting a ground out to end the inning.
For the second straight night the bullpen got the job done and didn’t give up a single run. It has to be mentioned that in the two games since A.J. Griffin went the distance, the bullpen has been very good. The Rangers bullpen has been very taxed so far this season and that game by A.J. Griffin gave them an unexpected rest that they have capitalized on.
Offense: Lucroy, Rougie and Napoli……yes really
Don’t look now but Rougned Odor, Mike Napoli and Jonathan Lucroy appear to be coming around. Lucroy is the leader of the pack and is hitting .333 over his last 12 games and is 7 of 15 in his last 4 games. During that time span he has raised both his batting average and OBP over 60 points each. It was also Lucroy who provided 3 base hits on Thursday night including a huge flare single to centerfield that set the table for Rougned Odors game tying knock.
Speaking of Mike Napoli……while he is still struggling to hit on a consistent basis, he now has three games in the month of May where he has recorded multiple hits. After his big night Thursday, Napoli now has 4 home runs for the month of May as well. It’s not always going to be about average for Napoli, what matters is his production and in the month of May Napoli is slowly and surely beginning to produce. For those who have fairly questioned why the Rangers would spend 8.5 million dollars on a guy who can’t hit, tonight was your answer. The Rangers signed Mike Napoli because he is the type of guy who can change an entire game with one swing of the bat…..tonight he changed the game with two.
Odor, like Napoli is still struggling to hit consistently but he also came through with two big hits tonight including a game tying single in the 9th. The most impressive thing about Rougies 9th inning hit was that he went the other way. He didn’t try to do too and actually tried to hit the ball to left field. He was able to connect and tie the game. If Rougie starts hitting to the opposite field on a regular basis, watch out. The other thing to note with Odor is that he has been hitting the ball hard lately even when he gets out. This also is a great sign for Odor and could signal that an extended hot streak is on its way.
The Rangers, having won three straight for the second time this year will stay at home and welcome in the Oakland Athletics on Friday night. This is the third series between these two teams this year and the second go around at Globe Life Park. The two teams are split having each won their home series 2 games to 1. This series continues an extremely important stretch for the Rangers who are in the midst 5 series against losing teams.