Considering that the Party at Napoli T-shirt went on sale Thursday, that he’d homered in the eighth inning and that the crowd was still chanting “Nap-o-li,” “Nap-o-li” as he came to the plate in the ninth inning, it just felt like he was going to do something to win the game.
Jonathan Lucroy sensed that before the game.
The Carnac, I mean catcher, told Napoli before the game that he would have a big one.
“Before the game we were on the bench, I told him, ‘You’re going to have a big game today, I can feel it,’ ” Lucroy said. “I just felt it and it ended up working out. I just have confidence in him. The guy can hit. Sooner or later the guy is going to break out. He’s really good.”
Maybe it’s an instinct balding guys with beards share with one another, sort of like the sense twins have about one another.
Whatever it was, Lucroy couldn’t have been more correct.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from Thursday’s 5-2 thriller.
1. What can a walk-off win against arguably the worst team in baseball do for a team?
When that team is one of the most disappointing teams in baseball, perhaps quite a bit.
Napoli believes it’s possible that the walk-off could be the start of a turnaround for an offense that has be woeful and a bullpen that has been more woeful.
Napoli, as woeful as they come in the lineup, connected for two homers in the final two innings — a solo shot to open the eighth and break up Clayton Richards’ shutout bid, and a 448-foot three-run game-ender into the club level in left field.
The Rangers won for the third consecutive game, building on a laugher Tuesday in San Diego and a nail-biter Wednesday in which the offense scored three of its four runs on a balk, an error and a wild pitch.
Napoli is now batting .172. He has a long way to go just to get to the Mendoza Line, but there were a few promising signs for him.
The first came on the winning shot. He turned around a 95-mph heater after getting mostly beaten by fastballs this season.
Way back in the second, he took a walk for the second consecutive game after 16 straight without a free pass. That’s a sign that he’s seeing the ball well again and that his timing is right.
More good for the offense? Lucroy collected three hits in his first game as the cleanup hitter, and Rougned Odor’s game-tying single ahead of Napoli’s game-winner was a single to the opposite field as he went with the pitch rather than yanking it.
So, the offense has some momentum. The bullpen worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings, and the winning pitcher was Sam Dyson. Yes, that Sam Dyson, who worked a scoreless ninth with some help from Lucroy gunning down Erick Aybar trying to steal second.
With Oakland and Philadelphia coming to town, the Rangers have a chance to claw back toward .500. That could be what a walk-off win against arguably the worst team in baseball can do for them.
2. Martin Perez’s record held at 1-5, and he narrowly avoided a fifth consecutive loss in span in which he has allowed 16 earned runs.
Three of his outings have qualified as quality starts. In only one of the six did he not give the Rangers a chance to win.
That’s far more than what can be said about the offense, which in all six have failed to give Perez a chance to win.
The offense was at it again Thursday, to score with Perez on the mound. Once he exited, well, you know the rest.
Perez remains confident that his record will begin to even out as long as he continues to enjoy good health and improved control. After walking no hitters Saturday at Seattle, he walked only two Thursday and one of those was intentional.
That’s easily the biggest development for him as he tries to meet his expectations of being one of the top left-handed pitchers in the American League. He’s now of the mind-set that it’s better to just let the opponents put the ball in play.
If they get a hit, they get a hit, but he’s confident that his sinker and off-speed pitches will have them making outs more often than not. He has been right the past two starts.
That’s a good start for a turnaround, though Perez doesn’t have much to turn around. His worse start came at Oakland, where he allowed four runs in only 3 2/3 innings. All four came in the first inning.
He allowed four more in 5 2/3 innings Aug. 30 against the Angels, though the bullpen didn’t do him any favors in allowing inherited runners to score.
Perez is close after years of toying with being good, before and after Tommy John surgery. He’s been excellent at times, awful at times, but usually somewhere in the middle.
The Rangers, though, don’t have much to complain about over his first eight starts. If he continues to believe in his stuff and challenge hitters rather than trying to make the perfect pitch, he will get better as the season continues.
3. Adrian Beltre took a batting practice on the field Thursday afternoon before the rest of the team and was later spotted around the batting cage during BP for everyone else.
He’s not ready to rejoin the Rangers and won’t be for a couple weeks. Or that seems like a good guess. But the belief is that he has made progress because his demeanor has improved.
It’s possible that he won the lottery, though it would have to be a fairly significant jackpot to match or surpass his career earnings. No, his mood is based on how his right calf feels.
That alone has made the Rangers feel better about his return, though manager Jeff Banister insists that there is no timeline for Beltre’s return. Banister wouldn’t even speculate about how long of a rehab assignment Beltre might need.
He convinced the Rangers to let activate him from the disabled list in June 2015 without an assignment after injuring his left thumb. At least he had played within the last month.
Beltre hasn’t seen a pitch in a game since March 26 and hasn’t played a full game since the World Baseball Classic. If the Rangers were concerned about getting his legs in shape the first time Beltre strained his left calf near the end of spring training, that concern would have to have doubled now.
That conversation will have to be had at some point, but probably not until Beltre is able to run the bases. For now, the Rangers feel encouraged because he’s happy again.
That’s better than nothing, I guess.