Mike Napoli tosses his bat aside after crushing his second homer of two homers Saturday night against C.J. Wilson. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
When C.J. Wilson is paying Mike Napoli a compliment, you know he means it.
The two rivals from their bitter tweet dustup of 2012 met again Saturday night and safe to say, Napoli got the last laugh. He homered twice off the pitcher who took offense to Napoli proclaiming that he can’t wait to make the Angels pay.
Napoli homered in the second inning, a laser beam that literally hit a target sign hanging on the facade of the second row of Monster seats down the left field line. His second homer off Wilson came on a hanging curve that Napoli put over Monster seats entirely, snapping a 2-2 tie and putting the Red Sox ahead for good in an 8-3 win Saturday night at Fenway.
“He was teammate of mine,” Napoli said. “Yeah, it’s nice to have a good night. I’m glad I just had a good night and feel better at the plate. He has good stuff. He’s handed it to me before this night. It was nice to get him tonight.”
Revenge? “Nah. That was a long time ago,” Napoli said in taking the high road.
Napoli has three homers in the first two games against the Angels and four homers in five games on the homestand. His seven homers lead the club since April 25.
“He was really locked in tonight,” Wilson said. “Obviously, this is the guy tonight, or last two nights, was more like the guy I saw hit .300-plus or .325 in Texas, not the guy on the scoreboard hitting a buck-80 or whatever it is. He’s obviously a very talented hitter and everybody goes through slumps. He’s obviously found his stroke so buyer beware for the rest of the league for the rest of the season if he stays there.”
As for his relationship with Napoli, whom he played with in 2011, Wilson initially scoffed at the question before offering perspective.
“What does that have to do with anything,” Wilson added. “We only played together for one year so it’s not like we know each other that well. We played together for one season in Texas. He caught me. We had really great results with him catching me. But other than that, him and [Jered] Weaver are buddies but there’s guys that I’m friends with on other teams that I’ve never played with because we got to hang out at a video shoot or commercial or something like that. I’d say Nap and I have different interests on and off the field.”
Any exchange of words on the field?
“We have it in for each other,” Wilson quipped sarcastically. “We’ve been playing on opposite teams for 10 years. Just like [other players]. Who have I been against for 10 years? Everybody good. Everybody that’s still in the league from 2005, we’ve all been trying to get each other out or get hits off each other or whatever. That’s just the way it goes.”
Before Saturday, Napoli was just 6-for-31 (.194) lifetime against Wilson with one of the six hits being a home run in 2011. He doubled that total Saturday night.
“My numbers against Nap I’d say are good overall,” Wilson said. “So, it’s an anomaly to give up two home runs. He’s got one homer off me before tonight. It was because I threw him like six backdoor cutters in a row in Anaheim in 2011. So that’s the last time he hit a homer off me. Obviously, we don’t play in the same division any more.
“You try to challenge guys and go at them with your best stuff. Sometimes, you throw a borderline pitch and he either doesn’t chase it like in the first inning.”
Napoli was his normal reserved self after his 14th career multi-homer game.
“I need to have a swing to where I can do damage,” Napoli said. “I think I was a little tentative to where I was just trying to put the ball in play and make something happen. I don’t like to strike out but I think I have to be able to go up there and be able to swing and be able to do damage. I’ve kind of taken that approach, do that and it’s been working.
“I feel pretty good. This is a time where I have to maintain what I’m doing right now in the cage and in my BPs. I know where my hands have to get. It’s a good feeling to go in there [batter’s box] and be able to compete and not try to think what’s going wrong with my swing or anything. I’m going to try to keep that muscle memory and be able to go into the game and compete.”
As for crushing two different pitches (fastball and curve), Napoli said that’s a sign that his timing is getting closer to where it needs to be.
“It means my foot is getting down in time to where I can recognize and fire in the zone,” he added. “That’s where you work to, to be able hit a strike in the zone, no matter what it is. It’s definitely a good feeling. I’m going to try to keep that going with my pregame work and go out there and play hard.”
“Probably the first day we played Texas [Tuesday]. Just being able to get my hands back to where I want them and feel comfortable. I still wasn’t there. I was still working on it. It was something new but each day that goes by I feel better and better.
“The way I was hitting, it wasn’t helping us. We’ve got a lot of good hitters in this lineup. We’re definitely better than what we’ve been doing out there. We’ve just got to keep going, keep grinding and everyone in this clubhouse is going to do that. We know that we can be a great offense but we’ve got to be able to go out there and do it. I’m going to get pitched, if I’m in first or ninth, the same way. It doesn’t matter. Whatever, I come in here and check the lineup and wherever I’m at, I’m happy I’m in the lineup. I’m going to have the same approach, no matter what.”