How much can a .259 hitter affect the fortunes of a first-place team? If you’re the Boston Red Sox, it turns out, quite a bit.
Boston first baseman Mike Napoli started and ended this past week with 0-for performances, and on both days, the Red Sox lost.
In those middle five days, though, Boston won five straight from Sept. 3 to Sept. 7, outscoring the Detroit Tigers and the rival Yankees by a total of 56-30, while the former Los Angeles Angels catcher went 10-for-18 with seven runs scored, two doubles and four home runs.
Even with his 0-for-1 pinch-hitting performance on Sunday against New York, and his 0-for-2 collar against the Tigers on Sept. 2, Napoli still led all of Major League Baseball in batting average over the past seven days (.476), while his 10 hits tied him for eighth, his seven runs tied him for fifth and his .577 on-base percentage was good enough for second in the bigs.
Napoli’s slugging percentage – 1.143 – led all of baseball, far outpacing the second-place mark recorded by Alex Rios of the Texas Rangers by 0.191.
Rios’s 1.452 OPS was certainly notable, but, again, Napoli just about lapped the field with his 1.720 .
With nine RBIs and four circuit shots over the past week, Napoli was the most productive slugger in the Majors, and was at his best when Boston needed him most, going a collective 7-for-13 against the Yankees in a four-game Boston sweep.
In the opening game of the series, Napoli went 2-for-4, sparking a ninth-inning comeback with a two-out single against closer Mariano Rivera which led to a 10-inning, 9-8 win for the BoSox.
Napoli then went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, one double, two walks and a game-tying grand slam in the seventh, never once being retired by Yankees pitching.
In the penultimate game of the series, Napoli went 2-for-5 with two home runs and three RBIs in a 13-9 victory.
Aug. 26-Sept. 1: Brandon Moss
Aug. 19-25: Jarrod Parker
Aug. 12-18: Alfonso Soriano
Aug. 5-11: Miguel Cabrera
July 29-August 4: A.J. Burnett
July 22-28: Giancarlo Stanton
July 15-21: Juan Lagares
July 8-14: Buster Posey
July 1-7: Clayton Kershaw
June 24-30: Jason Kipnis
June 17-23: Ryan Howard
June 10-16: Carlos Gonzalez
June 3-9: Yasiel Puig
May 26-June 2: Domonic Brown
May 20-26: Mike Trout
May 13-19: Justin Masterson
May 6-12: Evan Longoria
April 29-May 5: Ryan Raburn
April 22-28: Jeff Locke
April 15-21: Mike Trout
April 8-14: Prince Fielder
Ryan Gorcey covers Major League Baseball and publishes BearTerritory.net for Scout.com and FOX Sports NEXT. Follow him on twitter at @RGBearTerritory.