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Napoli had played one of his best games of the season in the field, making four above-average plays. There was the leaping catch-and-tag made on an errant Will Middlebrooks throw to end the fourth inning. The charge-and-field, race-to-the-bag play on Rajai Davis' eighth-inning bunt. And the sliding catch in foul ground for the first out in the 11th.
But perhaps most impressive of all was the play made while racing back to catch Brett Lawrie's foul pop-up near shallow right field, with his back facing the batter. It was a play Napoli likely wouldn't have had a chance at making earlier in the season.
"Absolutely," he said when asked if catching pop-ups has presented problems this season. "I haven't caught that many pop flies. The ball spins different then when I'm catching. It was something I was struggling with and wanted to work on. I've been working on that. I'm trying to get better at anything I can every day."
The problem for Farrell, and Napoli, was that the mentions of the first baseman weren't going to stop after the manager's analysis of his player's defense. While the improvement of one area had contributed to the Sox' series-opening win, an uncomfortable trend for Farrell's club had continued to go down a problematic path.
Napoli -- one of the supposed keys to the middle of the Red Sox' batting order -- has sunk into the kind of offensive depths never experienced by the 31-year-old.
On this occasion, Napoli went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, leaving four more runners on base. Since his two-hit, three-RBI game in Kansas City, the righty hitter has gone 0-for-12 with nine punchouts.
WEEI: Napoli catches optimism amidst worst slump of his career
The struggles have been worse than just recently. He's on pace to destroy Mark Bellhorn's record of 177K's and Jim Rice's record of 294 runners stranded. (He's currently at 158 & 229.) Those aren't the types of records you want to break, especially since you're on a one-year deal alongside a hip issue that will scare any general manager from giving you anything remotely long term.
The RBI double he had in Kansas City appeared to have gotten him out of this funk but as you can see above, he took a giant leap back. 0-for-12 with 9 K's? Just painful to watch.
Now to Napoli's credit, he's not being shy about this. He's admitted that this has been the worst stretch of his career, the polar opposite of what he did back in 2011 for the Rangers where he looked to be the best hitter in all of baseball.
Thankfully, this hasn't really affected the Sox overall. In fact they now have their biggest lead in over a month, thanks to Tampa Bay losing six in a row and Baltimore not being able to repeat their dominance in close games this year. But knowing how the AL East is, both of them will get out of their struggles and continue to nip at the heels of the Sox and in order to stay ahead of them, the Sox need Napoli to find himself and be the threat he can be.
Rest of the Links: Globe: Sox outlast Jays | Victorino ever unique, delivers for Sox | Keep Tazawa away from Blue Jays | Herald: Extra effort helps Sox clip Jays | Farrell still persona non grata in Toronto | Dempster takes off in Great White North | Do Sox have what it takes? | CSNNE: No second guessing | He's coming back | Sox come through in extras over Jays, 4-2. | WEEI: Victorino saves day for Sox | Middlebrooks: "I'm in a much better place" | Back for more: Uehara's 2014 option vests |