The Red Sox wasted another solid start from their rotation Saturday afternoon, giving Wade Miley only two runs of support as the Yankees clinched a series win in Fenway Park. It's a loss that will be shared by the team as a whole, but highlights the failure of one player above the rest: Mike Napoli.
Napoli is off to the slowest start of Boston's active starters. Hitting just .169/.280/.268 heading into Saturday's game, all the positive signs of the past few months for Napoli--his successful surgery, his torrid pace in spring--have produced nothing during the regular season. But his struggles were never more glaring than today.
Batting sixth, Napoli came to bat with one down and nobody on in the second, one down and two on in the fourth, two down and two on in the sixth, and two down and one on in the eighth. In every situation but the first, the Red Sox needed a big hit. To keep the pressure on a suddenly struggling Nathan Eovaldi in the fourth, to get back in the game and knock Eovaldi out in the sixth, to possibly tie it up in the eighth. Mike Napoli had three chances to change this game.
And he did, but only by grounding into a double play in the fourth. If you're looking for the one moment the Red Sox really had to do some damage against Eovaldi, that was it. And Napoli killed it.
In a Wade Miley game this might all be inconsequential. Sure, Napoli didn't get the runs home, but when you're trying to overcome seven runs in three innings, who cares? But Miley broke his trend today, pitching seven innings of three-run ball that, honestly, was even better than those numbers suggest. He kept the ball on the ground pretty much all day long, and was punished for two runs in a fifth inning which not only saw a pop-up fall perfectly between Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, but also had Brett Gardner bring two runs home in an at bat that very easily could have ended on a strikeout a couple pitches earlier but for a rough call from the umpire.
But you can't put this one on the ump or on a lucky bloop. This one's on the offense, and there's not many guys as easy to find fault with as Napoli. Blake Swihart reached base twice and scored on a Mookie Betts double that nearly found the seats to tie the game, while Dustin Pedroia produced the other run on a fourth-inning homer into the Monster seats. David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, and Pablo Sandoval each reached twice as well, clearing them for the day. Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts join him in the 0-for-4 club, and so share some of the blame. But Napoli is the one with all the men left on base. All the chances and nothing to show for it.
The call has generally been for pitching these days. But on a day where the Red Sox got as much as they could realistically ask for from Miley, it was the offense that didn't follow through, and there's one glaring weakness in that lineup right now. Napoli is streaky, and he could certainly turn it on any day now. But that day needs to be soon, or the Red Sox are going to have to make a change.