Mike Napoli made it official Saturday night: he's back, and back in a big way. Driving in three runs on two homers, the first baseman gave the Red Sox exactly what they needed at the plate to snap their three-game losing streak with a 8-3 win over the Angels.
The way Steven Wright's night started, it hardly seemed like four runs would be enough. The Angels put up a pair on the knuckleballer in about the most foreboding two-run first inning possible. It wasn't just the run-scoring doubles from Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun that were hard hit, but the outs from Mike Trout and Matt Joyce as well. The Angels were letting that knuckleball fly, and it seemed unlikely Fenway Park could contain them for long.
But it did. There were no shortage of fly balls off the Angels' bats Saturday night, and no few of them went a long way. But none of them left. And when a knuckleballer is getting contact (rather than, say, walking in runs) that doesn't end up in the stands, it's usually a pretty good sign.
That was the case for Wright. Not only were those two first-inning runs the only damage the Angels would do to right, they came on three of just four hits and five baserunners that he allowed all night. The next Angel to reach base would be Matt Joyce on a two-out single in the fourth. Wright quickly erased him, and then pitched into the seventh, where he was pulled with just 75 pitches on his arm after a leadoff walk. Alexi Ogando got out of the inning to keep Wright's night looking pretty clean with just two runs to his name.
In recent days, that might not leave him in line for the win. But as mentioned, Mike Napoli had taken care of that side of things. In the second inning, after Wilson had made quick work of David Ortiz and Xander Bogaerts for a pair of strikeouts, Napoli worked a full count, then hit a laser into the Monster seats, actually coming inches from hitting the bullseye on a fan's "hit it here" sign.
The Red Sox would tie the game in the next inning, with Mookie Betts--in the game for a once-again injured Shane Victorino--singling home Brock Holt after a leadoff walk. That tie would hold until the sixth, when Napoli again found himself up to bat with two down, this time with Hanley Ramirez at first base. Where his first homer had been a fastball hit on a line, this was a curveball that was absolutely crushed, up and over everything in left into the Fenway night, putting Boston ahead 4-2.
The Sox would get some insurance runs in the late innings. In the seventh, an error from Calhoun helped the Red Sox load the bases with Swihart, Betts, and Ramirez for David Ortiz. And while Big Papi couldn't get it done, Xander Bogaerts could, giving the Red Sox a rare timely hit to drive home two. Then, in the ninth, Brock Holt managed to score from first on a hit-and-run single from Blake Swihart, going well out of the zone to make some desperate contact to avoid leaving Holt out to dry and being richly rewarded for his diligence. Betts proceeded to bring Swihart home, and it was an eight run night for the Red Sox, leaving a third Angels run in the top of the inning inconsequential, and making it a comfortable Red Sox win.