Mike Napoli has had a weird season at times, but nothing from his short Red Sox career might be stranger than Sunday night's contest against the Yankees. Napoli hit two homers, including a walk-off solo shot in the bottom of the 11th, but he also struck out three times and grounded into a double play. This combination made Napoli the first ever player to do so in recorded baseball history, according to Baseball-Reference's extensive archives.
Yup, baseball is older than anyone reading this, and by a whole lot, but Napoli actually managed to accomplish something that no one else ever has.
Everything he did had serious weight to it, too, even if it didn't work out. The first homer, which came off of Yankees' starter CC Sabathia in the bottom of the third, put the Red Sox up 4-3 after it cleared the Monster in left. Now, some Monster shots are unique homers to Fenway, but there was nothing Fenway-related about this one: Hit Tracker says that this blast would have left all 30 parks, and it's hard to argue with that as you watch it enter the upper atmosphere:
Napoli's next significant plate appearance would be that double play, which, according to win probability, was the second most important play of the entire game. Boston had the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth in what was then a 7-7 game, and Napoli's ground out ended the threat and took the Sox' chances of winning down by 27 percent, or by just slightly more than his earlier home run had added to their chances.
He would make up for it in the bottom of the 11th, however, on the seventh pitch of his plate appearance against Yankees' reliever Adam Warren.
This one would travel nearly 30 feet further than his first homer, though, granted, it didn't have a giant sign get in its path. It capped Napoli's strange night, and kept the Red Sox 1.5 games up on the Rays in the East heading into their four-game set. The importance of that is obvious enough that we can skip explanation.
Aside from the homers, Napoli also did his part to contribute to Boston's victory in his other at-bats. He might have grounded into a rally-killing double play and struck out three times on the evening, but he also saw 33 pitches in his six plate appearances, or 5.5 per trip to the plate. He helped wear down the Yankees' starter and bullpen on a night where the game went to extras, and this eventually set up a situation where Napoli faced a reliever who has had homer issues in the majors, and in a pivotal moment to boot.
Not a bad evening, all things considered, even if it was a weird one.
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