CINCINNATI — From his seat in the dugout, Mike Napoli peered out at the tantalizingly close right-field wall at Great American Ball Park Wednesday afternoon and told Yoenis Cespedes that he would hit a home run that way before the game was over.
“Are you strong enough?” Cespedes asked, teasing his new teammate.
Napoli simply nodded. He then proved it in the fifth inning with a blast that even Cespedes would have been proud of.
Napoli’s two-run homer helped give the Red Sox a 5-4 victory against the Cincinnati Reds and a two-game sweep of the interleague series before a crowd of 32,870.
The Sox still aren’t scoring many runs, but have made their swings count in recent days. Cespedes won games Sunday and Tuesday with home runs in the eighth inning. Then Napoli went the other way with a fastball from Mike Leake and stuck it two rows deep.
The Sox have won three straight and four of five to finish 5-3 on a road trip against three contending teams.
Napoli was out of the lineup Tuesday as David Ortiz played first base. Napoli pinch hit in the seventh inning and struck out. He then drove in three runs Wednesday, the first with a fielder’s choice in the first inning.
“We both can’t be out there playing first,” said Napoli. “I totally understand it. It’s just how it is. You can’t do anything about it.
“We have to have David in there. I go out there and do the same thing every time. I prepare and play the game hard and try to make something happen.”
Napoli’s left ring finger is still crooked and sore after it was dislocated in April, and his ability to drive the ball the other way has been compromised. The home run Wednesday was only his third to right field this season.
When Leake left a fastball out over the plate, Napoli was ready for it and gave the Red Sox a 5-3 lead.
Cespedes, who had singled in a run, scored ahead of Napoli and embraced him at the plate.
“I told you,” Napoli said to him.
With Ortiz on the bench, the Red Sox needed Napoli to deliver.
“With his power the opposite way and this ballpark, that’s a pretty good combination,” Sox manager John Farrell said.
Rookie righthander Anthony Ranaudo (2-0) made his second start of the season and left with a lead after six innings and 91 pitches. He allowed four runs on eight hits with one walk and one strikeout.
“They put some balls in play and scored some runs off me today,” said Ranaudo. “It obviously speaks volumes to the offense and how they supported me today and the bullpen, how they slammed the door.”
Ranaudo retired six of the final seven batters he faced, steadying the game after the Reds scored a run in the bottom of the fifth.
“I realized how important it was,” Ranaudo said. “I was a little frustrated giving up that run after we scored those three runs. That was a little turning point for me. I had to really lock it in.”
When Ranaudo was done, Burke Badenhop, Junichi Tazawa, and Edward Mujica each worked an inning.
With Koji Uehara having pitched four of the last five days, Mujica was used to close and he picked up his third save.
It was an arduous task. Skip Schumaker and Zack Cozart started the ninth with singles. Ramon Santiago then fouled off three bunt attempts, drawing loud boos.
“We get the three foul balls and it changes the whole complexion of the inning,” Farrell said.
Mujica needed only four more pitches to end the game.
Billy Hamilton popped to center. Kris Negron was next and he grounded back to the mound. The ball was hit well but smacked Mujica in the back of his right leg. He picked it up and threw to Napoli at first base.
Mujica, who struggled early in the season, has not allowed a run in his last nine appearances and has been rewarded with more late-inning opportunities.
“It’s a long season, and the change from the National League to the American League has been a little crazy,” he said. “Making adjustments every day and working hard.”
Leake (9-11) took the loss, allowing five runs on eight hits over five innings.
The Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Brock Holt walked, took second on a wild pitch, and scored on Daniel Nava’s single.
Nava went to second on the throw to the plate, took third on a groundout, and scored when Napoli grounded out.
After stranding runners in scoring position in the first and second innings, Ranaudo walked Negron with one out in the third.
Todd Frazier, who last faced Ranaudo during a high school game in New Jersey in 2004, followed with a ground-rule double to center as the ball hopped over the fence.
Ranaudo limited the damage to one run. Devin Mesoraco had a sacrifice fly before Brayan Pena popped out.
The Reds took a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning on solo home runs by Schumaker and Leake. It was the second of the season for Leake and the fourth of his career.
Frazier had a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning but the Reds did not score again.
The Red Sox allowed only 23 earned runs during the road trip.
“We’re playing better baseball,” Napoli said. “At this point, I’ll take that.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.