Mike Napoli is looking for his second World Series in three years with the Rangers in the playoffs. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, Texas — Now is the time Mike Napoli plans to draw upon his 2013 Red Sox World Series karma.
The 33-year-old slugger traded Aug. 7 from the Red Sox to the Rangers for a player to be named will spend the next 48 hours reminding his Texas teammates that now is not a time to panic after blowing a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five ALDS series against Toronto.
What will Napoli be thinking of in the hours leading up to the winner-take-all Game 5 Wednesday afternoon at Rogers Centre in Toronto? Winning it all in 2013 with the Red Sox, naturally.
“Yeah, I’ve talked about it with them, what it was like and how much fun it can be,” Napoli told WEEI.com Monday after Toronto’s 8-4 win at Globe Life Park in Game 4. “I’m telling the young guys this is where you can get noticed and put yourself on the map.”
Napoli had his chance again Monday to put himself on the map like he did with a huge solo homer off Justin Verlander in Game 3 of the 2013 ALCS in Detroit. But this time, as a pinch-hitter for Josh Hamilton in the seventh inning, he grounded into a 4-6-3 double play against reliever David Price.
“Everyone’s watching so you just have to have fun with it,” Napoli added. “I told them there’s nothing like spraying champagne on each other after you win something. We got a little taste of it [with AL West title]. I think we’ll be ready for this game. It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere but we’ll be on the road and we’ll go out there and have a game plan and try to execute it.”
How much does he look back on 2013 at a moment like this and draw upon it?
“Always. I’m reminded of it all the time,” Napoli said. “I’ve got a replica trophy of it. It’s something that you can never forget and there are stories you can share with people about it is just something I like to do.”
Shortstop Elvis Andrus was a teammate of Napoli’s on the 2011 Rangers. who suffered horrible heartbreak in World Series Game 6 in St. Louis. Andrus, for one, is certainly glad Napoli is back in the Rangers clubhouse for another do-or-die contest.
“Same teammate, man. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had in my career,” Andrus said. “He’s a guy that’s going to support you, going to be out there for you. He’s going to battle with you in the good and the bad, and he’s an amazing player. That’s the kind of teammate you always want to have.”
Napoli came over to a Texas team that was treading water at 54-54 and 5.5 games behind Houston in the AL West. They went 34-20 with Napoli on the roster and won the division.
“For us to get here, we were down six, seven or eight games, to be able to fight back and stick together, to get to where we are now, shows we are a tough team, mentally,” Napoli said. “I think going into this game, we’re going to treat it like we have been, have fun with the game, play hard and try to execute.”
Rangers manager Jeff Banister used Napoli against left-handed pitching and played him in left field. Napoli was more than just a trusted teammate returning to a franchise that was twice just a strike from winning the 2011 World Series. Napoli produced, belting five homers, driving in 10 and batting .295 in 35 games. The Rangers are batting just .213 in the four games with only two home runs and Napoli has just one hit in six at-bats, losing Games 3 and 4 at home and scoring a total of five runs in the process.
“Past two games we’ve been kind of silent with our bats but we showed some life late in the game, swinging it better,” Napoli said. “That’s definitely going to carry over into a game in two days. We’re a confident group right now. Every time we go out there, we believe we have the team to win. We have Cole on the mound, the guy we want out there in this situation. He’s been there before. He’s won a World Series. He’s a confident guy with good stuff. Having him out there gives us a lot of confidence.”