Even though he sees them sitting out there, runs waiting to be driven in, nothing changes at the plate for Mike Napoli.
It’s the same approach, whether he has the bases empty or there are runners in scoring position.
“I’m just trying to look for a pitch to drive to the gaps,” said Napoli. “I’m still going to be patient, try to get what I’m looking for, try to execute my plan.
“I really don’t change anything. I’m still trying to drive the ball. I’m in the middle of the lineup, I want to drive the ball somewhere.”
In the past 10 games, though the approach has been the same for Napoli and the Red Sox as a whole, the production hasn’t.
The Sox have lost eight of those 10, looking out at the base paths and staring at opportunities squandered. They have gone 13 for 79 with runners in scoring position, leaving 73 men on base.
“Sometimes, when you get an opportunity with a runner on third and less than two outs and you don’t get the job done, it gets frustrating,” said Napoli.
“You want to get that job done, try to get a run across. You’ve just got to try to stay within yourself and try to get the job done.”
In the process of dropping two of three to the division-rival Blue Jays, the Sox went 3 for 36 with runners in scoring position and left 25 runners on.
“Losing a series like that, it’s kind of frustrating,” said Napoli. “We had some opportunities as an offense to help us out, and we really didn’t get it done. It happens sometimes, but you’ve got to get out there and try to grind those ABs out.
“Sometimes guys are struggling in the lineup and you’ve just got to keep battling. You go out there and maybe you try to see more pitches or just really bear down and try to stay short.”
After getting off to a surprisingly fast start by driving in the third-most runs in the American League, the Sox have run into a cooling-down period that manager John Farrell seemed to see coming.
“As much as we cashed in in the month of April,” he said, “it may be cliché, but things are evening out.”
It hasn’t made this recent stretch any less difficult, especially as they’ve had to watch the Yankees and Orioles nudge ahead of them in the AL East standings.
“When you fall into a rut like that, it happens,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “We’ve just got to do a better job focusing, getting the job done. You can’t make any excuses for yourself. You’ve just got to do what it takes to get it done and that’s what makes a good team.
“We’re not too far away. It’s only May, so we’re going to go out there and keep grinding. That’s all you can do. It’s going to start turning our way. We’ve got too good of a team and too good of a pitching staff to not do it.”
While Farrell acknowledged there was clearly some growing frustration, he said it wasn’t affecting his team’s mentality at the plate.
“I don’t think guys are coming out of their approach despite the stretch that we’re in,” he said. “We’re hitting some balls right at people.”
In Sunday’s game, Farrell used Napoli as the DH to get the slumping David Ortiz off his feet for a day and also to lighten the load on Napoli. Ortiz, who is in a 1-for-17 stretch, went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in the first two games against the Jays.
“He’s squared some balls up that haven’t either found a hole or carried as they had when he first rejoined us,” Farrell said. “But I can’t say that there’s any one major issue that he’s dealing with mechanically.”
The day away from first base seemed to help Napoli, who went 3 for 4 with a home run and a double Sunday.
“It’s a long season,” said Napoli. “You’re gong to have your ups and downs. You’ve just got to try to minimize when you’re having a rough time.
“We have a lot of veterans on this ball club. We’ve been through this before in different seasons. We know what it takes. We’ve got a lot of guys that work hard and we’re going to try to grind it out and get it going again.”Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.