Mike Napoli (right) celebrates with David Ortiz after Napoli hit the go-ahead home run Friday night. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Mike Napoli celebrates staying in Boston with game-winning HR: 'I love my teammates'

Mike Petraglia
July 31, 2015 - 7:30 pm

Talk about irony. Mike Napoli spent the week leading up to Friday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline wondering. He was wondering if his hot streak of late meant his days (and games) in the city he's grown to love were numbered. The Pirates were in need of a right-handed power bat and surely, they could swing a deal with the Red Sox for the power hitter with just two months left on a two-year, $32 million contract. But 4 p.m. came and went Friday and Napoli never got that call into general manager Ben Cherington's office. The first baseman took a deep breath and prepared to play another game for the Red Sox. He went 1-for-2 and that one hit was certainly a memorable one. With the Red Sox trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh and David Ortiz at first after working walk, Napoli swung at a two-strike 97 mph neck-high heater from Tampa Bay lefty reliever Jake McGee and lofted a rain-making fly ball to left that came down on the ledge of the Green Monster and bounced into the seats for a go-ahead two-run homer. The homer was the difference in a 7-5 win over the Rays at Fenway. What a way to mark staying in Boston. The slugger now has a .326 average, three homers, nine RBIs and seven walks since July 12. "I was just trying to stay short to the ball. He throws hard. I calmed down my leg kick and just tried to get my barrel to it," Napoli said. "You face guys in your division so much," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "McGee is a guy that likes to elevate his fastball looks to get some chase. Nap was sitting on a pitch up in the zone and did a fantastic job with it. Finally, we had a break go our way." Napoli, the guy who had trouble in the clutch all season, the guy who couldn't seem to catch up to a high fastball all year, clubbed a fly ball that was only a home run because it came at Fenway Park. "Playing at Fenway to get that homer," Napoli smiled. "It was just reaction. Just tried to calm my leg kick down. He throws hard." As for the relief that comes with the passing of the trade deadline, Napoli said it was just another day. "I wasn't worried about it," Napoli said. "Like I said before, I just came to the park to make myself better. It's something I can't control. If it happened, it happened. But I wanted to be a Red Sox. I signed here. I love my teammates and I definitely have fun playing with them on the field. "I said I don't have to answer your questions about it anymore. Yeah, it was over. But I kept my day the same." "For Nap, it probably peaked personally for him today," Farrell said. "There might have been some building anticipation throughout the week, thinking if there was a team, maybe it was Pittsburgh that might have had some speculation, needing a right-handed bat. I'm sure once the deadline closed, it's a chance to let some of those thoughts that could potentially be a distraction ... be eliminated." One of those teammates Napoli loves playing with is David Ortiz and the Red Sox slugger put up quite the at-bat with an 11-pitch walk, featuring four straight foul balls before McGee threw Balls three and four in the dirt. "I'm trying to drive something in that situation, not necessarily hit a homer," Napoli said. "I was trying to keep it going. Pass it on to the next guy. [Ortiz] passed it on to me and I was just trying to have a good at-bat and pass it on to the next guy. I happened to get a pitch up. It was a great at-bat. He grinded it out, fouled pitches off, took sliders in the dirt. Just missed the double foul. It was a great at-bat. It's nice to see from on-deck and really get into it. Ball four came and he gave me a chance." "Two fantastic at-bats in the seventh inning," Farrell said. "David with an extended at-bat. He just misses the double and able to work out a walk against a premium left-handed reliever. Nap tomahawks a pitch that has just enough to get out of here. A see-saw game back and forth. Great to see us respond as we did with the two-run homer by Nap."