Hanley Ramirez rounds third base after crushing a first-inning homer. (Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

Mike Napoli on the pressure on suddenly hot Hanley Ramirez: 'I don't think that's too fair'

Mike Petraglia
June 06, 2015 - 6:44 pm
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Mike Napoli knows there's a lot of pressure on Hanley Ramirez to perform. Maybe too much. But the way the slugger has been playing the last 10 games, there are positive signs the investment in Ramirez is starting to really pay off. Ramirez crushed a two-run homer in the first inning Saturday and had three hits to lead the Red Sox to a 4-2 win over the A's at Fenway. In his last 10 games, nine starts, Ramirez is batting .368 (14-for-38) with three homers. He has at least two hits in six of his last nine starts, lifting his average to .272 on the season. Ramirez was signed for four years and $88 million in the offseason to do what he did in the first month of the season and what's he's done in the last 10 games since Texas. "He's a superstar so there's a lot expected out of him," Napoli said after Saturday's win. "There's pressure on him every day to come through every single time. I don't think that's too fair but I think he's up to the task and wants to come through. He works hard and takes it serious and wants to get the job done. "We all have confidence in him. He's a great player. We're going to need him." Ramirez acknowledged that responsibility Saturday with a smile after the game in front of his locker. "I try to control what I can control right now," Ramirez said. "Just go to the cage and do my work to be ready for the game and go out there and compete every day. Sometimes, you just have to go out there and let it go. "It's a long season. Pretty much everybody in here is a champion and everybody knows how to play the game and what we need to play better." Ramirez has apparently found something else, his comfort zone in the lineup. After batting .257 in 45 games as the club's cleanup hitter behind David Ortiz, Ramirez batted third for the fifth time Saturday. His 3-for-5 effort raised his average to .400 (8-for-20) with two homers in the three hole. Ramirez also acknowledged something else Saturday: He can lead offensively but he can't do it all by himself. Yes, he shot a 430-foot missile of a homer to the tarp in center and set the tone offensively. But it was Ramirez who paid props to starter and winner Joe Kelly and the bullpen that held on for win. "The whole team did. Everybody contributed out there. Kelly pitched a great game and the bullpen come in after and took care of the rest," Ramirez said. "That's what we need, a little bit from everybody." While certainly the Red Sox will need their stars to lead the way if they are to wind up where they expect to be at the end of the season, Napoli knows Ramirez will be a key driver of the bus. "He's done it. He's done it before," Napoli said. "He's been a middle-of-the-lineup guy his whole career. He's put up numbers. We lean on him, too. When he comes through in situations it's nice." Ramirez has been very sensitive and aware of the criticism the team has received in the last two weeks as it stumbled into the cellar of the AL East. But he sees important signs from others like Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt, all of whom have started to hit their stride in the last two weeks, even when the wins haven't necessarily been there. Is this an important sign of improvement? "Definitely. It's about time," Ramirez said. "We've got a couple of guys on our team that are hot. I think that's why we played better baseball right now. Why not a couple more [wins]?"

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