Sports

Mike Napoli muscles Texas Rangers past Boston

BOSTON -- The primary reason the Texas Rangers acquired Mike Napoli before last season was because of his ability to hit left-handed pitchers and hit them hard.

It wasn't a baseball secret.

So, imagine his surprise when he was allowed to face a struggling lefty Wednesday in the eighth inning with the Rangers' game against Boston still in the balance.

Just about everyone at Fenway Park was surprised, too, but the result was hardly a shocker.

Napoli laced a two-run double in the Rangers' three-run eighth inning, and he had a two-run homer earlier in the game to back Derek Holland and send the Rangers to their sixth consecutive win, 6-3.

The victory left the Rangers at 10-2, matching the club's all-time mark after 12 games. They have also won four straight series to open a season for only the third time, and their 5-0 start on the road is one shy of another club record.

"We're playing good baseball," manager Ron Washington said. "We're doing it in different ways. We've just been doing whatever the game has asked us to do."

Josh Hamilton went 3 for 4 to raise his average to .440, and he drove in the Rangers' first run in the third inning after they had fallen behind 2-0 for a second consecutive game.

Napoli brought them out of the deficit an inning later when he cleared the Green Monster against Josh Beckett. But Napoli's biggest hit was in the eighth with the score at 4-2.

Lefty Franklin Morales had already allowed a single, walked two and plunked pinch hitter Craig Gentry in the foot to force in a run.

"It was definitely a painful way to do it, but it works," Gentry said.

Right-hander Matt Albers was ready in the Red Sox's bullpen, but manager Bobby Valentine stuck with Morales against Napoli.

Valentine said he didn't make a move because he wanted to show confidence in Morales and a struggling bullpen. Napoli took care of that, as he lined a double off the Monster to plate Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz for a 6-2 edge.

"I knew they had a right-hander up in the 'pen," said Napoli, who has homered in three straight games. "I thought they were going to bring him in for Gentry.

"I don't know. I just wait until somebody comes on and set my mind right for that pitcher. I just went up there, and he was still in there."

Napoli's homer was his eighth in 12 games against Boston, and he is hitting .358 (24 for 67) with 10 homers in 20 games against the Red Sox since 2010. He has seven homers and 17 RBIs in his career at Fenway Park.

"There are some ballparks you go to and you hit terrible in," Napoli said. "I like hitting here. I can kind of stay in my approach of going to right-center, and if I get a mistake in, hopefully I can hit it off the wall."

The Red Sox rallied for an unearned run against Joe Nathan in the ninth and had the tying run at the plate, but pinch hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia lined into a double play to end the game.

Boston had only two hits against Holland (2-0) after Kevin Youkilis' two-run shot in the second inning. Holland walked three and struck out seven in seven innings as the rotation improved to 8-0 for the first time in club history.

"I just told myself, 'That's all they get,'" said Holland, who threw 102 pitches. "You've got to continue to go out there and fight. Your offense is going to come out and score some runs for you, so you've got to go and make some pitches."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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